Serendipity 3: A tribute to sugar

Serendipity, by definition, is the phenomenon of making valuable or happy discoveries purely by chance. But at Serendipity 3, a pleasant experience isn’t just a possibility. It’s guaranteed.

While Serendipity 3’s flagship location on New York City’s Upper East Side has won countless hearts for its famous frozen hot chocolate, the Georgetown location (3150 M St. NW), housed in the spot where Nathan’s Hot Dogs once stood, is already challenging the much-celebrated cupcake shops for the best sweets in the historic neighborhood.

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Don’t want to wait in an hourlong line for a carrot cake or red velvet cupcake? Head over to the corner of M Street and Wisconsin Avenue for the decadent sundae versions, with a somewhat shorter wait and an even sweeter experience.

Serendipity 3 is a vintage fantasyland that looks and feels like a scene Lewis Carroll would appreciate. With a Pegasus cutout on the wall, a red chair hanging from the ceiling and a “One Way” traffic sign pointing to the skies, the main impression of the dining room is of a dream.

Nothing that leaves the kitchen fails to impress the eyes and palate — fellow diners often paused mid-conversation to ogle the massive entrees and desserts brought to other tables. The restaurant takes the “go hard or go home” mantra to heart by boasting foot-long hot dogs, enormous portions of everything, and what has been recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s most expensive ice cream sundae. 

The Golden Opulence Sundae, a monument to sugar with Tahitian vanilla bean ice cream topped with exotic chocolates, marzipan, dessert caviar and an edible leaf of 23-karat gold, all served in a crystal goblet with an 18-karat gold spoon. It must be ordered at least two days in advance and costs $1,000.

While Serendipity 3 is best known for its desserts, it’s hard to go wrong with any item on the menu. A wide and unique selection of salads, sandwiches, burgers, pastas, pizza and hot dogs tends to be underrated simply because the desserts are off the charts, but they all hit high notes.

“It’s like they went into my head, found everything I like most on a sandwich and put it on their menu,” said one dining companion while savoring “The Full Monty”: grilled chicken breast, Monterey jack cheese, red onions, arugula, bacon and barbecue sauce on soft ciabatta bread.

The A.B.C. burger, made with avocado, brie and caramelized onions served on one of the restaurant’s “famously glorious buns” — which almost taste like a croissant — has also rightfully earned many fans. Complete with a side of a choice of sweet potato fries, steak fries or coleslaw, the juicy burger is sure to satisfy.

But the entrees, while impressive, are only the opening act. Expectations are set high for the desserts, yet what arrives at the table somehow manages to surpass them.

Of course, one can’t leave the restaurant without trying the $9-a-pop signature frozen hot chocolate. The creamy chocolaty goodness is made with 20 different types of chocolate and topped with four inches of whipped cream and chocolate shavings. The frozen hot chocolate also comes in seven other varieties, including peanut butter Oreo, white chocolate and Mochaccino.

While Serendipity 3 is best known for the frozen hot chocolates, the sundaes were ultimately the main highlight. The carrot cake sundae — made of decadent carrot cake piled with walnuts, vanilla and butter pecan ice cream, maple walnut and white chocolate fudge, and topped with whipped cream — is positively dreamy. At one point, the frozen hot chocolate sat abandoned as we all enthusiastically dug into the carrot cake sundae.

Other mouth-watering sundaes include the cookie dough sundae (chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream, hot fudge, whipped cream and a cookie jar assortment), Forbidden Broadway sundae (chocolate blackout cake, chocolate and vanilla ice cream, hot fudge and whipped cream) and the Red Velvet Sundae (chocolate ice cream, red velvet cake, hot fudge, whipped cream and rainbow sprinkles).

And for those who have sugar cravings at all hours, Serendipity 3 is accommodating: It’s open until 2 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and till 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. A valuable and happy discovery, indeed.