Amid a cozy green-and-white decor and hardwood floors, Tres Leches Desserts’ owners have created a familial closeness with customers with sweet treats and lunch items lovingly made from scratch. The kitchen’s cooling racks brim with large fruit tarts, sheet cakes, and cheesecakes, along with cookies much more complex than the original bite-sized treat—a plate bearing a single sugar granule. During weekday lunch hours, the shop also whips up midday feasts of quiche and empanadas, complemented by a daily rotation of specials.
Pete Behringer's passion for sweets ignited at the age of 14, when his mother founded Peterbrooke Chocolatier, the site of his first job. Pete’s profession hasn’t changed in three decades, and his passion and talent for handcrafting artisan confections has flourished. His insistence on weaving together simple, all-natural ingredients with an artisan touch earned him the proud title of Chocolatier of the Year for his gourmet chocolate treats, many of which are gluten-free, at Jacksonville's 2012 Taste of Chocolate Challenge. Within his candy shop, a century-old picturesque Victorian nestled in historical Springfield, he displays rainbows of jellybeans, sour gummy bears, vegan and gluten-free products, and colorful lollipops shaped like animals, airplanes, and Rorschach blots. When he's not spinning natural cane sugar into edible masterpieces, Pete hosts candy-making classes, parties, and events in his candy shop or on location.
Atop its eponymous frozen stone counter, Marble Slab Creamery mixes candies and nuts into scoops of ice cream churned in-house with milk produced by local farmers. More than 29 flavors of ice cream, such as chocolate amaretto and sweet cream ($3.79–$5.79), envelop brownie bits, pop rocks, granola, cherries, and other mix-ins ($0.69 each) to create unique confections in waffle cones ($1.19) baked on site. Ice-cream cakes celebrate birthdays and bog-snorkeling triumphs in flavors such as Smooth Mint Masterpiece and caramel-pecan turtle. Sweet cream and strawberries crown layers of yellow cake and ice cream, and glasses of milk meet their match in a chocolate cake festooned with cookie dough (6" cake, $19.99+; 8" cake, $26.99+; specialty flavors, up to $30).
Choux Designer Cakes & Pastries combines sweet-tooth-sating flavors with upscale, custom pastry design. Using only high-class ingredients such as Belgian chocolate, pure vanilla, and imported Swiss fondant, Choux's chefs handcraft each cupcake and dispense them by the flavor-full according to the customer's verbal request or series of oversized cue cards. Indulge cravings with a chocolate cupcake topped with gooey vanilla frosting, or rest chins comfortably in a pillowy-pink patisserie.
Since opening in 1980 as a German deli, European Street Cafe has steadily increased the scope of its menu to accommodate an eclectic mix of French, American, and Mediterranean influences. In addition to a beer selection that features more than 20 drafts and 150 bottles from foreign and domestic producers, the bistro-style eatery’s four locations ply patrons with hot and cold sandwiches. Veal- and pork-filled Bavarian bratwursts and spicy kielbasas appear alongside corned-beef sandwiches and pitas with homemade tabbouleh. Taking care to offer vegetarian and gluten-free alternatives, chefs pile sandwich ingredients upon the diner's choice of bread, including pumpernickel, sourdough, and ciabatta.
Beyond the ever-expanding menu, certain locations also lure in passersby with regular live music or trivia nights that test visitors' knowledge of food-fight physics.
At Hala Cafe and Bakery, chefs whip up a selection of Turkish and Middle Eastern eats, including falafel plates, kabobs, and a number of hummus-based dishes. The menu features buffet options, as well as house specialties, such as the shawarma plate–sliced and marinated lamb or chicken, served on a bed of fresh parsley and onion and topped with tahini sauce.
Family owned and operated, Flippin' Good Cookies sates confectionary cravings with its selection of colossal cookies. Each sweetmeat weighs in at two ounces and comes in five traditional varieties, such as oatmeal brickle raisin, Southern pecan caramel, and chippy chocolate toffee, which mingles semi-sweet chocolate chunks with gregarious gobs of toffee and a saccharine buzz of espresso. Indecisive sweet teeth can craft a delectable dozen of assorted cookies, and eco-conscious chompers may request environmentally friendly packaging to help Mother Nature tidy up after last night's interstellar rager.