In this age of health and wellness, of vegan butchers and thigh-hugging athleisure, where does a place like Sugar Factory belong?
The national chain — which originated in Las Vegas and became a celebrity magnet by asking stars to collaborate on designer lollipop sticks — has arrived at the Mall of America. And there's no better home for its supersized sweets than our supersized mall.
When the only fresh thing in sight is a banana that has been covered in sugar and brûléed with a blowtorch, when a chef asks someone for cherries to top a sundae and is handed two pieces of gummy fruit, when a burger served between two doughnuts comes with a grilled cheese where the lettuce should go, you might as well leave all your resolutions behind at Lululemon.
Welcome to a Sugar Factory edition of Outta Control, the Star Tribune's series featuring over-the-top foods in the Twin Cities. Watch past videos of a nearly 2-foot-long quesadilla and a deep-fried burger at startribune.com/outtacontrol.
The restaurant on the third floor of the mall is dripping with crystal chandeliers, mirrors, roses, neon lights spelling out "Beautiful," and a row of televisions that light up a neighboring candy store with flickering images of various Kardashian-Jenners posing behind (but not eating) an ice cream sundae the size of an infant. There is a constant line of customers waiting to get in.
"The wow factor is what we strive for," said Connie Scott, general manager of the MOA location. "For Wisconsin and Minnesota, you have pretty much everything. We're bringing something different, something a little sweet, something over-the-top, something for the whole family."
Assistant corporate pastry chef Adriana Chavarria worked in fine dining before joining the company a year ago. The food she gets to make at Sugar Factory, she says, is more fun.
"It's definitely something that you want to eat and nothing you've eaten before," she said. "Panna Cotta? Played out. But who's going to put a cheeseburger on top of a milkshake?"
(That would be the strawberry milkshake that's garnished with a mini bacon cheeseburger, Chavarria's favorite item on the menu.)
How does Scott respond when people question how a menu like this fits in with modern-day health hype?
"Sugar Factory is for the indulgence," she said. "It's when you want to treat yourself. It doesn't have to be all about sweets. We have salad, salmon, vegan options, so it's definitely a very inclusive menu … and then we take it too far."
Here are five examples of just how far Sugar Factory is taking its commitment to over-the-top dessert indulgence.
1. King Kong Sundae
Twenty-four scoops of ice cream, three sauces, sprinkles, graham crackers, gummy bears, marshmallows, Oreos, two waffle cones with candy necklaces hanging from them, gummy cherries, two giant lollipops, a glazed doughnut, a red velvet cupcake, that brûlée banana — oh, and two lit sparklers — are just some of the ingredients in this Thanksgiving-turkey-sized sundae that can serve 12. It's $99.
2. Princess Make a Wish Milkshake
Sugar Factory's "Insane Milkshakes" appear to flow over the beer mugs they are served in. In reality, the mug is rolled in soft ganache so that toppings adhere to it. Like the Princess, a pink-as-can-be vanilla milkshake that's enrobed in hot pink sprinkles and garnished with a cupcake with bright pink frosting, a white chocolate Kit Kat and a marshmallow "poofy pop." $20.
3. The Drake Goblet
All of Sugar Factory's $32 Goblets are enormous cocktails that tend to follow the same formula: dry ice, booze, gummy candies. The Drake has something extra: a stick of strawberry lemonade cotton candy that melts into the peachy tea-and-whiskey drink as smoke from the dry ice consumes it. Bonus: There's also a specialty goblet for the MOA location, made just for Minnesotans' boiled-fish-with-white-sauce palates: It's called the Hot & Wild Spicey [sic] 305 Pineapple, with vodka, pineapple juice and jalapeños and topped with gummy chili peppers. According to the menu, it was "designed and tasted by Pitbull."
4. Chocolate Silver Fondue
You'll need to give two days' notice to order off a menu of pricey fondue platters. The reason: Chavarria gets to use her French pastry techniques to hand-craft duck-shaped macarons. For the silver fondue, the macarons are dusted in silver powder, as is everything else on the platter: pretzels, gummy bears, popcorn and cupcakes. It's all served with a vat of melted white, milk or dark chocolate, and comes with two glasses of dessert wine for $150. A gold-dusted version comes with a bottle of Dom Pérignon and serves six — for $1,000.
5. Donut Burger
Dinner or dessert? Why not both? An 8-ounce beef patty — and a grilled cheese sandwich! — is stacked between two doughnuts dripping with white glaze. There's cheese, there's bacon, there's powdered sugar. It's as sugary and as savory as a sandwich can get. Just watch out for the frosting mustache when you bite into it. $18.
To see more photos and videos from our food series, follow us on Instagram at @outtacontrolmn or visit us at startribune.com/outtacontrol.