Downtown cafe pleases picky palates

There are two sides to the foodie debate, represented by the opposing factions of sweet and savory. While the sweet camp happily dives right into a carton of ice cream for dinner, for instance, the savory camp will be just as happy munching cheese and crackers for dessert. But at Syrup Desserts these camps are reconciled: Both ice cream and cheese are presented in one single dish to satisfy guests’ preferences, whether for sweet or savory tastes.

Holy crêpe · In addition to customizable waffle combinations, Syrup Desserts serves themed crêpes that come with ice cream and sweet cheese. - Sophia Lee | Daily Trojan

Despite its name, Syrup Desserts isn’t exclusively a dessert place. A coffee shop, cafe and ice cream parlor all in one, Syrup Desserts is one of the few dessert bars available in Downtown Los Angeles for after-dinner hangouts. Opened last August by owners Stan Lin and Steven Seav (Lin is a USC alumnus), it has joined other late-night stores like L.A. Café and D-Town Burger Bar in contributing to the growing nightlife along the historic core of Los Angeles.

Syrup Desserts is built with the neighborhood community in mind. The setup is sophisticated and urban, with a lofted second floor, dim lights and sleek counters, but with none of the pretension of a VIP lounge. Instead, the place exudes a warm feeling that all but beckons passersby, the feeling of invitation enhanced by welcoming furniture like lounge seating and couches; Syrup Desserts charms customers with decorative touches like brick and tiled walls, sugar and tea canisters and giant Nutella jars. In fact, they even offer free wireless Internet so customers can update their Facebook status over a pastry or cup of coffee. For groups that crave a more social spot, they also stock board games like Sorry, Connect 4, Clue and Monopoly upstairs.

The service is equally amicable, accommodating and patient with even the most nitpicking of customers. When one customer asked for the Fresh Fruit Blintz, but without the ice cream, cheese, compote, coulis or whipped cream — essentially making up her own crêpe — the server’s friendly smile never flickered.

Unfortunately, the management of the store was sorely lacking — literally. When the same customer tried to substitute frozen yogurt for the ice cream in her crêpe, she was informed that the restaurant was out of frozen yogurt, despite being one of the posted menu choices.

After ordering the Asian Pear and Gouda grilled cheese sandwich, for instance, the server asked if they could substitute in Cuban bread as they were out of walnut raisin bread — the sandwich’s real selling-point.

All the same, the sandwich was presented perfectly buttered and toasted on a spotless plate, accompanied with a medley of colorful fruits.

The crêpe came artistically presented as well, neatly stuffed and folded with fresh fruits sprinkled around and a dash of powdered sugar topping. The blackberry jasmine ice cream came on the side in a frosted cup with two tiny spoons.

The sweet grilled cheese sandwich was stuffed with juicy, sweet Asian pear perfectly balanced with the sharp, nutty taste of melted Gouda cheese, a delicious combination of sweet and savory. But the Cuban bread was nothing special, just your basic white crusty bread. Regrettably, this sandwich would have been much better with the original walnut raisin bread; the crunch from the nuts and the chewiness of the raisins would have added more depth and texture. On a brighter note, the fruits that accompanied it were fresh-cut on the spot, not canned and syrupy.

The other customer’s crêpe was heavily customized of course, but even with just fruits and a thin pancake it made for a light, pleasant dessert. The blackberry jasmine ice cream was a revelation — infused with the fruity fragrance and taste of real blackberries, there was also an intriguing jasmine tea undertone. Altogether, it was refreshing yet creamy, light yet exotically rich.

Syrup Desserts also sells other desserts in similar combinations but with a different base. Its waffles — Belgian, liege or deluxe fancy — are immensely popular, with fun creations like the Tropical Coconut (a coconut waffle, topped with lychee ice cream, sliced pineapples, coconut flakes and pineapple sauce). Or you might crave a more classic combination, like the Syrup Signature, an original sweet liege waffle topped with vanilla ice cream, strawberries, strawberry glaze and chocolate syrup. If none of the management’s suggestions sound appealing, customers also have the option of creating their own waffle dessert by choosing your waffles, ice cream, fruit toppings and syrups.

All crêpes come with some kind of ice cream and sweet cheese, but with different fillings and toppings according to their various themes. For example, the Apple Pie By Grandma comes filled with grilled apples, dulce de leche ice cream and cheddar cheese, with ground cinnamon and caramel as toppings. The Crêpe Tiramisu is yet another play on a classic, filled with strawberries, tiramisu ice cream, espresso-dipped Italian lady fingers, chocolate and mascarpone cheese.

Even the drinks have a unique spin to them. Besides classic beverages like espressos and macchiatos, you can also diversify your options with Mint Mojito iced tea, Velvet Rooibos with mint and chocolate or Spicy Aztec hot chocolate, all of which will pair well with other pastry options like layered cakes, Napoleons and fruit tarts.

With such a wide variety of options, Syrup Desserts embraces customers of all types. Its relaxed atmosphere will draw in lone customers looking for a quiet spot to read, and its friendly vibe will encourage dressed-up socialites to kick off their spiky high heels and loosen their ties. It might even persuade staunch Savory-lovers to indulge in a little sweetness in their dishes and discover their hidden sweet tooth. All in all, Syrup Desserts is most definitely a sweet addition to the Downtown community.

3 replies
  1. Trojan loft
    Trojan loft says:

    Its really nice to see Trojan Alumni revisiting their roots and contributing to the neighborhood near campus, albeit not within walking distance.

    I have been to Syrup Desserts and there food really is a fresh twist and unique spin on favorites. I like the place because its an espresso joint along with a dessert bar but it doesn’t come with the high prices that you are accustomed to. I don’t know if this was the intention but I like the concept.

    Art Walk is a good time to drop by but it gets busy quick. It amazes me to see how the Historic core has improved over the years. Spring street where Syrup Desserts is located used to be a desolate wasteland.

    This was a well written article and very informative.

    • Jack
      Jack says:

      Trojan loft,

      Agree 100%. Especially about the prices. Belgian Waffles for $6? You can get a great breakfast/lunch/late dinner for under $10 any night which is better than most other dessert places I can think of.

  2. TrojanDad
    TrojanDad says:

    Don’t neglect Syrup Desserts on weekend mornings for a terrific breakfast. The waffles truly are fantastic, and can be ordered with or without ice cream; also, don’t miss the mint hot chocolate!

    I most enjoy sitting outside at one of the two (or is it three?) small tables. And as for parking, there are metered spots along the street and a couple of low priced lots quite close by.

    Support USC grads and enjoy!

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