Hot Plate

Sundae best: Reportedly, the sundae was created in the late 19th century as a way of getting around the era's blue laws, which outlawed all sorts of Sunday activities, including the sale of ice cream sodas. Hence the "soda-less soda" -- or sundae: ice cream topped with the syrup that was originally used to flavor ice cream sodas. At the risk of sounding sinful, sundaes can go topless at the new Ben & Jerry's (5515 Kirby Drive, 713-529-3800), which serves up flavors like Chunky Monkey and Cherry Garcia that are yummy all by themselves. But Ben & Jerry's sundae goodies are a treat. The brownie special sundae ($4.29) starts with a moist, dense, just-baked brownie. This slab of chocolate is crowned with a huge scoop of ice cream -- we suggest Coffee Coffee Buzz Buzz -- and all the obligatory trimmings: real whipped cream, walnut halves and drizzles of silky hot fudge. For 99 cents more, opt for an edible waffle bowl, also made on the premises. -- Robin Barr Sussman

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