Walking into Sweet Belly in Oakland’s Uptown district, it takes awhile to get a sense of what this place is all about.
The name is a big giveaway — Sweet Belly is a dessert spot selling sweets. But while it’s in a former dive Chinese takeout spot and is decorated like a space for afternoon tea, the tiny spot that opened last fall is primarily a soft serve ice cream eatery.
Sweet Belly is from the same people behind the Asian burrito lunch spot Belly not too far away on San Pablo Avenue. As mentioned earlier, hand-crafted soft serve is the featured offering, made with choice of toppings and a made-to-order mini donut.
When I first visited, I was really interested in the mini donuts, which came in five different flavors: plain sugar, cinnamon, matcha, strawberry and orange zest. I was stumped, though, because you can only buy the mini donuts in a set of six for $5 (you can’t just buy one), and you can’t mix the flavors. You can only choose one flavor for all six instead of getting a mix.
I learned that the reason for this is because the donuts are made to order, which makes it difficult to fire up an order if you get a mix of flavors.
Because I wasn’t ready to chow down on six donuts, I instead ordered some of the other items offered. And it turned out to be this amazing matcha “cinnapuff “($3.75), which is a brioche swirled bun with a cinnamon bun filling that’s then injected with fresh vanilla cream. This is such an amazing and unique bite that I declared it to be the next new baked bite people in the Bay Area must try.
But beyond the “cinnapuff,” cookies and mini cakes available, I recently went back to try the main offering, which is the soft serve. When I visited, there were two flavors available: Earl Grey and chocolate. I got the Earl Grey and topped it with caramel coffee popcorn and the matcha sugar mini donut ($5.50).
The ice cream had a distinctive Earl Grey flavor, which is a tremendous feat because I find it’s often hard to translate tea flavors into dessert. The mini donut was nice and warm, freshly made with the green of matcha (though not a strong matcha flavor). It was a fun, enjoyable treat.
Sweet Belly stands alone in a quiet block off Broadway next to a parking structure. It’s worth making a turn if you’re strolling Broadway to check out what it has to offer.
The deets: Sweet Belly, 435 19th St., Oakland. PH: 510.839.7295. Open Monday through Saturday, noon to 9 p.m. www.sweetbellydesserts.com
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