Molten Chocolate Cake ($6.79)
With its warm, flowing center surrounded by rich chocolate cake, molten chocolate (or lava) cakes are typically a home run. Unfortunately, Chili's version struck out in terms of texture and flavor. The cake was only mildly chocolatey and had a strange, spongy quality to it. Worse yet, the main draw—the molten chocolate itself—didn't amount to much more than about a tablespoon and tasted more like chocolate syrup that was added after the cake was microwaved from frozen rather than warm, flowing cake batter.
Molten Chocolate Cake
The best feature of this dessert is the heaping scoop of ice cream. Flavor-wise, it wasn't anything spectacular, but it moistened the cake and added a tasty temperature and texture contrast.
Pumpkin Spice Molten Cake ($6.79)
The pumpkin spice cake is a limited-time special, replacing a recently departed molten peanut butter chocolate cake. It was slightly less spongy than the other lava cake on the table, but didn't taste at all like pumpkin. The most discernible flavor was a lingering, artificial flavor-tinged aftertaste and the cinnamon sugar topping which was partly caramelized, but gave the cake an unpleasant, gritty texture.
Pumpkin Spice Molten Cake
Cutting into the cake released a slow-flowing river of cinnamon-tinged cream filling that pooled on the plate. Bites that contained all three elements (cake, cinnamon cream, and ice cream) were the tastiest, and mostly masked the aftertaste. Overall, the response to this dessert divided our table, with some saying it was unique and interesting enough to earn high marks, while others couldn't get past the unwelcome grittiness of the cinnamon sugar. At 900 calories, it's probably not worth the gamble.
Brownie Sundae ($6.29)
I wouldn't call this a "brownie sundae" as much as a "brownie à la mode". There's no whipped cream, nuts, or a cherry—just a big 'ol scoop of vanilla ice cream and a zigzag of chocolate syrup. Still, if what you look for in a dessert is a big wallop of chocolate, this is the dessert I'd steer you towards. It's straight-forward and simple (to the point where there are no nuts in the brownie), but still tasty. That being said, it's probably best as a shared dessert. After a few bites, its uniform texture and heavy hit of chocolate became monotonous.
The cheesecake (served with a zigzag of strawberry purée) was the plainest dessert of the bunch, along with the lowest-priced and lowest in calories, with 750 per slice. It was also the most boring by a long-shot. It tacked tang and it wasn't nearly as rich or dense as I was hoping for. Beyond the first taste, subsequent bites were only taken as an attempt to pin down its flavor. Vanilla, coconut, and cream cheese frosting were thrown out as possibilities, but ultimately, the cheesecake was quickly ignored (and forgotten).
Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookie ($5.89)
With its crisp edges and gooey middle, it's no surprise that this skillet-baked chocolate chip cookie was the unanimous favorite. The cookie had a rich, buttery flavor with undertones of vanilla, and was studded with heaps of melted chocolate chips. The enormous scoop of vanilla ice cream on top eliminated the need for careful rationing. You'll probably run out of cookie first, so go ahead and be greedy.