Hot chocolate may not have
reached the popularity of coffee or tea, as Thomas Jefferson once
predicted, but is there any better way to warm up after a frosty
outing in a Chicago winter?
Rosy-cheeked kids everywhere
(and young-at-heart moms and dads) will agree: There's something
about hot chocolate that seems to just hit the spot when the
weather turns cold. So I took Grace Peterson, 13, and Holly
Peterson, 10, of Naperville, to hunt down the city's best hot
cocoa, perfect for little tummies and grown-up taste buds
Put down that packet of Swiss
Miss and check out one of these five faves to appease your inner
chocoholic. This is the cocoa you're sure to covet all winter
830 N. Michigan Ave.
When you need a break from
all that Michigan Avenue shopping, head to this popular chocolate
heaven, where squares of that famous candy are handed out at the
door. In the ice cream parlor-styled café, "chocolate is
everywhere," Holly said-and they certainly don't scrimp on the
Sweet-and-salty fans will
love the Sea Salt Caramel Hot Cocoa, while traditionalists will
crave the Classic Ghirardelli Hot Cocoa. Only the truest
chocoholics will go for the Decadent Drinking Chocolate, which
tastes like a candybar-in-a-cup.
With a primo location right
on the Mag Mile, Ghirardelli stays busy, and there's no bathroom
for the public. But this American-style hot chocolate is sure to
hit the spot.
108 E. Superior St.
For those craving a taste of
Europe, Pierrot Gourmet, the restaurant of the Peninsula Hotel, is
a great place to start. You'll feel like you've been transported
directly to France once you see the macaroon-filled pastry case,
which also features holiday treats to make your mouth water. On top
are large glass canisters of crushed chocolate, the base ingredient
for the ultra-rich cocoa.
The hot chocolate comes in
two varieties-dark chocolate and white-topped with "tons" of
whipped cream. While only the sweetest of sweet tooths likely will
enjoy the white chocolate, all of the hot chocolate can be
customized with flavor shots, so each cup is made-to-order. "This
is just right," Holly said.
1636 W. Monstrose Ave.
The first sign that this
isn't your ordinary restaurant is all the vintage Easy-Bake Ovens.
The second is the hot cocoa, called the Barthelona, and made from
chocolate imported from Spain.
The top half-inch of the cup
is covered with the day's "best whipped cream," a housemade vanilla
bean froth that perfectly countered the decadent sweetness of the
chocolate. Although my taste-testers dubbed this one "not too
rich," smaller appetites may want to try the "Shorty," a shot-glass
sized serving that soothes the sweet tooth.
Parents of small kids will
enjoy the collection of children's books to keep little ones
occupied. And be sure to grab a DumDum lollipop or doggie treat on
the way out.
1114 W. Belmont Ave.
The girls were sure to grab a
sample on the way in to this airy café, where tantalizing treats
line the pastry case. Bittersweet also offers savory options to
balance out the sweet, helpful considering Holly quickly said the
hot chocolate "tastes like a dessert."
Kids will enjoy the
sophistication of serving themselves (with mom or dad's help),
since the cocoa is brought to the table on individual trays,
complete with cup, teapot and a dollop of fresh whipped cream.
"That's a nice touch," Grace said.
So is the slight citrusy
flavor of the Mexican hot chocolate, reminiscent of those milk
chocolate oranges you used to get in the toe of your Christmas
1747 N. Damen Ave.
No hot chocolate tour of
Chicago would be complete without a stop here, where the entire
menu is built around the sweet stuff. The Wicker Park restaurant
turns more lounge-like in the evenings, so for those with kids,
it's best to aim for brunch, lunch or an afternoon treat.
With flavors ranging from
kid-friendly Farmer's Market Mint and the Medium (a caramelly
concoction) to the more adult cayenne-spiced Mexican and coffee
blends, "there's lots of variety," Grace said.
And those for whom hot chocolate is synonymous with marshmallows
will love the perfectly powdery housemade ones here-although there
may be some disappointment that you only get one atop your steaming
Elizabeth Diffin is the associate editor at Chicago Parent. She lives in Wheaton.
See more of Elizabeth's stories here.
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