Mabuhay, mahal, kumain is the motto of owners Chonnie Richey and Czarina Hounsel at Zen Bistro & Dessert Bar—Tagalog for “live, love, eat.” It’s an appropriate mantra for a bakery shaped by the sisters’ Filipino heritage with flavors collected from across Asia and comforting, homey treats such as cake balls. The latter have been raved about on the Cooking Channel's Food Crafters and in D Magazine. Each day, the kitchen rolls them from fresh-baked cake, frosting, and add-ins such as dark-chocolate cookie dough and fruit to create more than 10 classic and seasonal flavors including Filipino-inspired creations such as a purple ube yam variety. The spheres are then dipped in melted chocolate and decorated with more chocolate, colored crystal sugar, and sprinkles. At the dessert bar, customers can also reach for piles of stuffed cookies, gourmet cupcakes, and cakesicles—a fluffier, chewier version of icicles.
Asian flavors come into the forefront in a bistro menu of traditional Filipino dishes, Asian tapas, and bubble teas brimming with black tapioca pearls. The savory side of Zen’s mini-empire has attracted nearly as much attention as the sweets for dishes as bracingly authentic as the spicy beef caldereta—a tomato-based stew of potatoes, beef, and liver—and as American-influenced as the egg-topped Tocino burger, which made CraveDfw’s Comprehensive Dallas Burger Guide.
It was a fateful night in January 1999 when the bellies of college sophomores Leon and Tiffany started to rumble. The two UT Austin students convened at Leon's apartment, where they whipped up a batch of chocolate-chip cookies in his oven. As they chewed on the warm, gooey fruits of their labor, the pair was struck by the idea to sell these freshly baked cookies to their fellow students. They began delivering treats to their peers during evening study breaks before expanding their customer base to include parents and Austin residents, all the while renting the back kitchen of a local restaurant to accommodate the growing demand.
Fifteen years later, the indulgent lure of Tiff's Treats has helped Leon and Tiffany open 13 locations throughout Austin, Dallas, and Houston. Within these bakeries, kitchen crews sculpt fresh dough into 10 types of cookies, supplementing the gooey morsels with decadent brownies and signature Tiffwiches—vanilla Blue Bell ice cream sandwiched between two warm cookies. Bakers hand-deliver batches every day, pulling them fresh from the oven instead of the overheated engine block of the delivery car.
Owner Pam’s passion for authentic baking explains why each of Great One Cookie Company’s confections comes from only high-quality ingredients. Semisweet chocolate, macadamia nuts, oatmeal, and dried cranberries pour into batters that bakers blend fresh daily. The triple-chocolate cherry chunk overwhelms tongues with a blend of rich flavors, which can be balanced out by munching on lighter lemon-drop disks or by guzzling flavored water that’s had the flavor chemically extracted. Customers can choose from eight standard flavors as well as seasonal specials that, like a plate spinner’s gravy boat, rotate regularly.
Using a blend of fresh ingredients, skilled pastry chef Kristen Massad expertly whips up batches of joy-inducing indulgences. Start by choosing from a base of five moist, flavorful cupcake favorites—red velvet, chocolate, vanilla, carrot, and strawberry—before venturing into frosting-filled waters. Because Tart Bakery’s cupcakes are always appropriately accessorized with delectable frosting, they provide just the right arm candy for end-of-summer backyard barbecues, or as the adorably edible wedding-reception date.