7 Haute Spots for Hot Chocolate
Boots filled with slush, soaking mittens and numb from the cold cheeks can almost be considered worth it if they provide you with an excuse to sink into a mug of hot chocolate – not to mention ply your kiddos with the equivalent of a candy bar in a cup – at the end of the day. Sure, you could whip up an instant batch at home. But, as the days grow frostier, why not turn a simple sip into a full-fledged activity with a trip somewhere warm and cozy (and featuring a different four walls than the ones you’ve just been staring at for hours) for a taste of the best cocoa NYC has to offer.
Consider some of our favorites:
Jacques Torres Chocolate
Various NYC locations
A man who calls himself “Mr. Chocolate” sets a pretty high bar of expectation. Unhappy with the quality of chocolate that was available to him while working as a pastry chef, Jacques Torres constructed his own factory so he could make chocolate exactly the way he wanted from scratch. Now, that’s commitment! Currently, his thematically cocoa bean shaped retailers sell a variety of items, including bon-bons, chocolate-covered almonds, cornflakes, pretzels, cheerios, gingerettes, marshmallows, espresso beans, graham crackers, macadamia nuts, raisins, malt balls and bark, along with chocolate bars, ice cream, and, of course, hot chocolate.
Good to Know: Try a cup of Classic, made from real chocolate, not powder, or Wicked, with its extra kick of allspice, cinnamon and (believe it or not) ground ancho chili peppers and smoked, ground chipotle chili peppers. Both are so thick they might be mistaken for milk shakes. Can’t make up your mind? They’ll let you try a little sample first, which should make it harder for your tot to reject your selection down the line (not impossible, mind you, just harder). And if you still can’t settle on which you prefer, a combo pack is available on-line! However, if you do choose to make the trek in person, rest assured the locales are wheelchair accessible – which, for parents, means they’re stroller-friendly., as well Also great for those in a hurry due to a child about to melt down – you can grab your treats to go.
3 West 18th Street
When you’ve been hosting a Hot Chocolate Festival for 20 years like City Bakery has, you’d better know your stuff. February 2013 will be their 21st year offering a new flavor for every day of the month. Though the upcoming schedule hasn’t been released yet, 2012 options included Bourbon Hot Chocolate, On a Peanut Butter Barge Hot Chocolate, Chinese Cinnamon Hot Chocolate, Banana Peel Hot Chocolate, Beer Hot Chocolate and Love Potion Hot Chocolate. So if kiddo wants a sip of yours… Just Say No. And offer them a homemade marshmallow, instead. The combination of rich, velvety chocolate and lighter-than-air marshmallow has been described as a sweetness narcotic capable of soothing even the most savage beast – or tot.
Good to Know: If your little one gets hit by a sugar rush, the place is large and airy enough for some running around, energy burn off. It does get crowded, though, so polish up your ducking and weaving skills.
R Lounge at Two Times Square
714 Seventh Avenue at W. 48th Street
This Renaissance Hotel outpost may not change their Hot Chocolate Menu daily, but they do offer a seasonal flavor of the month. January promises Chocolate Therapy in a choice of dark, milk or white. And for those over 21 who really want to ward off the winter’s chill, add a little Grand Marnier, Rum, Frangelico, or Bailey’s. Then, come February, in honor of the holiday of love, color coordinate your personal Valentine with a blend of strawberries and white colored chocolate guaranteed to make you very, very hot.
Good to Know: The opposite of a place to burn off energy, R Lounge is mellow, with dim lighting, music and, most importantly, a fantastic view of Times Square. Your little one can sit with his or her nose plastered to the window, watching the neon signs and the bustling traffic while they sip their beverage, allowing you to lean back and catch your breath for possibly the first – and only time – in the day.
Mae Mae Café
68 Vandam Street at Hudson Street
Mae Mae’s café may not offer the variety of hot chocolates boasted by other places. In fact, they offer exactly one kind. But, the regulars swear it’s to die for, light instead of heavy, and smooth rather than thick. Plus, moms and dads with offspring who have a tendency to take one sip, then lose interest, leaving almost a full cup undrunk, will appreciate the price; only $3.50 as opposed to the $8 dollars you’d pay at the R Lounge (and that’s before the $10 extra for a shot of something to dull the pain).
Good to Know: Managing to be both cozy and cool, Mae Mae’s is perfect for the mom and dad who don’t want to give up their pre-kid, Euro-chic brunch in the Village lifestyle, but merely add Junior to the mix. Plus, there’s a psychedelic llama outside. Who doesn’t love a psychedelic llama?
MarieBelle’s of New York
484 Broome Street
Step up to the bar, folks. The Cacao Bar, that is. Hot chocolate at MarieBelle’s of New York isn’t just a drink. It’s an experience. And a philosophy. Every treat that MarieBelle crafts holds within it Art, Food and Beauty via Visual Pleasure, Luscious Flavor and Satisfaction. Your means for achieving this Hat Trick includes hot chocolates made with Hazelnut Milk, no sugar added Maya, and Aztec, made with South American single-origin cacao.
Good to Know: MarieBelle’s serves their hot chocolate on dainty china plates and cups, making it perfect for a special Mommy or Grandma and Her Big Girl day out, complete with a classic tea party (they do have tea, also, but when in a chocolate shop, why would you bother?) in a vintage French atmosphere.
21 Clinton Street in Manhattan
228 7th Avenue in Brooklyn
This chocolate bar is a cafe/wine bar during the day, but transforms into a dessert and wine bar at night. Even better? It’s located in the middle of two New York City boroughs. The still reasonably priced $4.59 hot chocolate here comes in Dark, Mint, White, Cinnamon, Spicy or the Funky Monkey (sure, you could just say Banana Flavor, but why would you want to)?
Good to Know: Not only is the Brooklyn location spacious on the inside, but there is also an outdoor patio plus a garden for all of your running around needs. And did we mention the free wi-fi?
Of course, no round up of New York City hot chocolate spots would be complete without the world famous Serendipity. Their titular Serendipitous Hot Chocolate, topped with whipped cream, grated valley orange, cinnamon, and shaved French chocolate is a relatively reasonable $6 (and, of course, it’s a bargain compared to the World Record breaking Golden Opulence Sundae, which will only set you back $1000, but, hey, it’s sprinkled with real gold!). On the other hand, due to its popularity, the restaurant area won’t accommodate strollers, and reservations are required for lunch or dinner (though not dessert). This may make it tourist friendly, but no so much for the folks who live in the city. Luckily, the natives have other options.
And for more chocolate fun, check out Chocolate Works, where your kids can make their own!
Where do you go in the city for your hot chocolate fix? Share with us your picks in the comment section below.
Written by: Alina Adams (her son is the lucky guy in the first photo about to sip on what we can only imagine is a warm, rich cup of hot chocolate!).
photo credits: Alina Adams, Jacques Torres Facebook page, City Bakery’s Facebook page, Renaissance Hotels’ Facebook page, Mae Mae Cafe’s Facebook page, Cocoa Bar’s Facebook page, Serendipity 3 Facebook page