When patrons pop into Berri Swirl, they don't just come for the tasty frozen treats; they come for the chance to take control of their own dessert destinies. As they march confidently to the self-service dispensers stocked with 12 flavors of frozen yogurt, they're already calculating which bits of Butterfinger chunks, blackberries, and gummy bears they're going to pluck from the do-it-yourself toppings bar packed with more than 40 toppings. Swirls of delicious low-fat yogurt infused with tastes ranging from snickerdoodle-cookie-dough to triple chocolate descend into holders including cups, cones, wafer bowls, and 55-gallon drums made of marzipan. Along with this variety of toppings and flavors, the fro-yo gurus maintain their healthy standards by concocting their creamy creations from genuine dairy, milk, and fruit purées and handpicking their ingredients from a variety of sources. After patrons take one last look at their creamy creations, they can browse magazines or surf free WiFi while wolfing down their sweet achievements.
Supreme Kakes' Chef Veronica spent 19 years in the kitchen mastering the sugary, floury basics of baking cakes great and small, an effort that earned her customizable-cake business enough traction to risk moving from her home kitchen to a 6,000-square-foot bakery in 2009. There, the chef and her equally adventurous staff craft statuesque sweets from a rich palette of 50 flavors and fillings such as almond amaretto cream and chocolate raspberry truffle. Veronica's artful baked-to-order cakes become the centerpiece at weddings and birthdays, channeling the honorees' personality and passions through vivid likenesses of cartoon characters, architectural marvels, or favorite sports broadcasters. The bake masters supplement their repertoire of towering sweets with their diminutive cousins, buttercream- and fondant-based cupcakes, and can often accommodate dietary and allergy restrictions with wheat- and gluten-free goods or cakes shaped into enormous antihistamine capsules.
Teahouse Tapioca and Tea's first opening day was a bit chaotic. The locale was Kaohsiung, in Southern Taiwan, and the owners hadn't figured out how much a cup of tea should cost. But they had decided they would treat their customers like family. To their surprise and delight, their customers reciprocated that sentiment, and those first tea drinkers returned the favor by keeping the owners informed of current trends, helping the teahouse develop their signature green tea with tapioca. The drink proved immensely popular, and eight years after opening, the owners expanded internationally.
Today, Teahouse Tapioca and Tea has five locations throughout Houston to serve its traditional cream tea. The drink's essential ingredients are tapioca balls, which are infused with dark brown sugar and caramel to make them chocolatey brown and extra flavorful. The drink isn't for everyone, but if you aren't pleased with its taste, you can exchange it for one of the teahouse's espresso drinks or juice.
Not only is Sweet Lola Yogurt Bar an "antidote to the antiseptic Pinkberrys of the world," according to Lonely Planet, it's also "the most adorable place in Houston"—or so gushes a Houston Press blogger. Like a worn-in powdered wig, the cozy shop exudes a shabby-chic French aesthetic, with bright pastel colors complementing cream-colored wooden furniture and shelves full of jarred candy and homey gifts. Sweet Lola's seasonal fro-yo flavors are equally adorable, boasting names such as "dreamy chocolate," "merri mint," and "blush," a combination of cherry and almond. Each creamy spoonful tickles taste buds with probiotic flavor sweetened with cane sugar and free of corn syrup or additives. A small but dependable selection of artisanal toppings crowns frozen creations with peanut-butter croutons and cookie crumble.
Shipley Do-Nuts offers a bit of hometown Houston pride with their cake doughnuts and quick-serve coffee. The regional chain is headquartered in the area, and sports some 86 locations throughout the Houston metro sprawl. Early morning eaters can swing through the drive-thru for boxes of warm jelly-filled or yeast doughnuts to take to the office, or just to grab a skinny caramel macchiato to start off the day. Drivers can find the Westheimer Road outpost tucked into a corner strip mall, between the Westchase District and the Energy Corridor, with a large neon sign none-too-quietly announcing the 24-hour drive-thru. With an expanded menu that also includes beignets, jalapeño sausage and cheese kolaches, fruit smoothies and cold energy drinks for on-the-move eaters, it’s no surprise that Shipley Do-Nuts has done so well in the Houston area.
Byzantio Cafe & Bar
Every Thursday night, belly dancers swivel their hips to the beat of Mediterranean music at Byzantio Cafe & Bar. Live DJs spin on weekends while patrons puff smoke rings of apple-, melon-, and mint-infused tobacco from hookahs. To fuel the revelry, chefs whip up classic Mediterranean cuisine such as sliced gyros with warm pita bread and a lamb souvlaki plate. After dinner, patrons may sip signature cocktails or grab a quick snack from the menu of bar bites and Greek coffee served until 2 a.m. The restaurant, a renovated bungalow, is composed of several rooms filled with sofas and cushioned chairs. The space’s centerpiece is the elaborate bar adorned with a stone mosaic and surrounded by antique fixtures. A patio offers additional seating for outdoors junkies during nice weather.