Cupcakes Couture's squad of chefs, led by owner Jenine Cravatt, plucks fresh, high-end ingredients from local sources to prepare eye- and tongue-astounding cupcakes every morning. Topping the menu are gargantuan Couture Cupcakes such as the succulent Sunday Mimosa, a champagne cupcake lovingly injected with orange-curd filling and accented with citrus frosting, orange caviar, and the soaring anthem of a local marching band with oranges stuck in their horns. Less intimidating yet still stimulating are the 19 designer cupcakes. Little Miss Shortcake ($4) caps its strawberry cake and homemade strawberry preserves with vanilla-bean frosting and a pink French macaroon beret. Caffeine hounds sniff out the Jeweled Java (espresso-infused frosting resting on a moist hillock of flavorful chocolate mocha cake, $4) and hunt it down until it climbs a 12-ounce cup of Lavazza coffee ($1.50). Cupcakes Couture also offers bikini cupcakes, which have less than 100 calories.
A shared love of beach volleyball led the two owners of Marine Street Cafe to move to Manhattan Beach, famed for its surfers and beach-volleyball players. The area’s history has continued to inspire the ownership duo—they have named some of their sandwiches after athletes who regularly visit the café. In their sandwiches—and the rest of the items on the menu—the team uses natural and organic ingredients to craft a wide range of dishes that draw from international cuisines. Many of the sandwiches feature a housemade aioli; that includes the Cooker, a banh mi sandwich that features grilled free-range chicken, pickled carrots, and sriracha. For breakfast, a housemade vanilla whipped cream tops dishes such as the belgian waffle and ricotta pancakes.
Skinny Minny’s invites customers to control their own dessert destiny with self-service stations to fill cups with non-fat, low-fat, no sugar added, and sorbet swirls sprinkled with as many toppings as they see fit. A full hour of unlimited yogurt throws the doors wide for an onslaught of creations that combine pistachio and chocolate under a blanket of toffee or cheesecake mountains studded with a forest of blueberries, kiwi, and strawberries. Cap’n Crunch can scale to the frosty apex of premium low-fat peanut butter fro-yo or slide down the fudge-drenched slopes of non-fat Georgia peach yogurt. Yogurt’s natural colonies of beneficial active cultures make it a healthy alternative to soft-serve ice cream, and, much like colonies on Roanoke Island, mysteriously disappear after exposure to the elements.