What Is America's Best Dessert City?
A new list reveals which U.S. cities have the most dessert shops per capita.
Where I live, a stretch exists that might as well be called “Sweet Street”—block after block with stores specializing in ice cream, shakes, cakes, or other desserts. But is this the best place in town to indulge a sugar craving? Frankly, it wouldn’t be my first choice. The moral is that volume doesn’t necessarily equate to quality (in fact, often times, the relationship is inverse) especially when talking about food.
So determining the “Top Ten U.S. Cities for Desserts” is tricky. The data company Infogroup—who previously looked at the best cities for ice cream—built its list from a single metric: the number of verified dessert businesses per capita. In theory, this creates a very specific list—which cities are most able to sustain dessert shops—and Infogroup’s list makes that even clearer.
Top 10 U.S. Cities for Dessert (Based on Dessert Shops per Capita)
1) Ocean City, NJ
2) Barnstable Town, MA
3) Norwich-New London, CT
4) Longview, TX
5) Salisbury, MD-DE
6) Portland-South Portland, ME
7) Providence-Warwick, RI-MA
8) Tyler, TX
9) Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT
10) Texarkana, TX-AR
As Infogroup itself points out, six of the towns above are vacation destinations on the seashore. Sure, that’s great if you love saltwater taffy, but not so great if you believe a “top” dessert comes courtesy of Dominique Ansel. (Not that New York and Los Angeles don’t have beaches, but it’s a different kind of vibe.)
Meanwhile, the prevalence of vacation destination also exposes a flaw in per capita numbers: If the shops are supported by outside visitors, the number of residents in the city is essentially meaningless: A rest stop may have a high number of Burger Kings per capita, but that doesn’t mean the New Jersey Turnpike is a “top” place to grab a hamburger.
However, quality alone isn’t enough to make a top food destination, either. For instance, Berkey Creamery recently made our list of ice cream shops worth a pilgrimage, but that doesn’t mean State College, Pennsylvania, is a “top” dessert city overall. (Unless your ideal dessert is eaten next to a Penn State student.)
None of this is to say that Ocean City, New Jersey, isn’t a perfectly suitable place to grab a dessert, but I would suggest that before you buy a flight into Atlantic City International Airport, maybe weigh other metrics beside dessert shops per capita. For instance, New Orleans landed on our Best Ice Cream Spots list (The Creole Creamery) and our Best Doughnuts list (Café du Monde), and is also home to the reigning James Beard award winner for Outstanding Pastry Chef, Kelly Fields. Yes, I know your significant other had their heart set on Providence, Rhode Island, but just somewhere else to consider.