Nothing can warm up a drizzly afternoon or a post-snow day chill than a piping hot cup of cocoa. In the food-obsessed Bay Area, it’s not surprising that people (kids and adults) take their hot chocolate as seriously as any other treat. The best cafes and chocolatiers use premium chocolates, freshly steamed milk and gourmet toppings galore, taking a simple cup of cocoa to a whole new level. Whether you like it rich or spicy, topped with marshmallows or whipped cream, locally sourced or European style, these hot chocolates will cure a multitude of toddler woes and bring out the kid in everyone.
We love this Castro spot for small batch single origin heirloom chocolates and hot chocolates too. "Kokak," meaning ribbit in the Filipino language, stems from Founder and Head Chocolatier Carol Gancia’s deep Asian roots and passion for making adventurous flavors with the rare cacao variety, “Naciónal.” Your hot cocoa options include classic, hot hot chocolate (a spicy drinking chocolate that harkens back to the Mayans), single province hot chocolate and cold chocolate milk if you want yours chilled.
3901 18th St.
San Francisco, CA
Socola’s Asian-inspired chocolates have an enthusiastic following in the Bay Area, and fans cheered when sisters Wendy and Susan Lieu finally opened a jewel box of a shop in SOMA. You can find their whole line of chocolates, from guava to earl grey to Vietnamese coffee filled truffles, along with coffee and a killer hot chocolate. The hot chocolate is made with their 72% dark ganache and freshly steamed milk and is topped with a housemade chocolate marshmallow.
535 Folsom St
French truffle maker Jean-Marc Gorce makes a show out of his hot chocolate at his chocolate shop and cafe on Columbus Ave, just up the hill from North Beach Library. You’ll find him talking truffles in his tiny, sunshine-yellow and blue storefront. His hot cocoa recipe begins with a ladle full of liquid truffle which is then whisked with hot milk on the countertop before your eyes. Decide if you want whipped cream and claim a free truffle with every drink. Peanut butter truffles are a hit with the kids but there are tons of other flavors to choose from. If the kiddos can’t finish their cup make sure you sneak the final sip to get the luxurious, rich truffle sediment.
754 Columbus Ave
Christopher Elbow Artisanal Chocolates
This modern chocolatier in Hayes Valley is known for its eye-popping, gorgeous decorated chocolates, but if you haven’t tried their drinking chocolate, you’re only getting half the experience. With numerous flavors to choose from, there's something for everyone. The Classic and Cocoa Noir are best bets for the kids and can be topped with the housemade vanilla bean marshmallows. If your little one can’t finish their chocolate, the staff here recommend taking the remainder home and popping it in the refrigerator. It will set into a zero-effort chocolate pudding by dinner time. If you can’t get enough of the hot chocolate, Christopher Elbow also sells the mixes in canisters so you can get your fix at home.
401 Hayes Street
This chocolate factory serves up three types of hot chocolate (and bites to eat that look so perfect, glazed and petite it’s almost a shame to eat them). Take your pick from a thick, rich European drinking chocolate, a Mission blend with Mexican spices or the Dandelion classic, lighter and sweeter than the rest. They all come with a micro cookie on the side. Dandelion also serves a Frozen Hot Chocolate, a recipe invented by the pastry chef. When they're back open for in-person dining you can pull up a seat in the cafe or better yet, snag a stool at the side bar and watch chocolate science taking place. You’ll see vats of melted chocolate being stirred and shaken. Eager little ones might even be handed a taster.
1 Ferry Building
Hot chocolate at an ice cream parlor? Definite yes. Lush is the first store licensed to make gelato from scratch in the city of San Francisco. They feature many local purveyors in their flavors, including Cowgirl Creamery, Frog Hollow Farm, and Bellweather Farms. Flavors vary daily and include such intriguing combinations as Popcorn Chocolate Salted Caramel, Buttermilk Pecan Pie, and Espresso Chocolate Chunk. The house hot chocolate is made with their chocolate gelato, is served piping hot, and is wonderfully rich and smooth—just like everything else at Lush. Your child may have trouble choosing between a hot chocolate and an ice cream cone!
520 Columbus Ave.
The chocolates in this store are so artistic they could be installed at SF MOMA. People regularly come in just to take pictures of the meticulously fashioned bon bons. Drinks are made with the same Solstice chocolate that's used to make the signature truffles. The classic hot chocolate blends 75% dark chocolate with sugar and a touch of salt and is then hand mixed with steamed organic whole milk. There's also a Mexican blend with cinnamon and chili as well as an option to add lavender for a different taste altogether. All are rich, smooth and silky. Afterwards, snag a box of chocolates to continue the indulgence at home.
1964 University Ave
The Chocolate Dragon Bittersweet Cafe & Bakery
This favorite chocolate shop offers lots of options when hot cocoa cravings hit. Their classic is a traditional milk chocolate with a touch of dark, or you can go for spicy, an intense and spicy sipping chocolate. Salted caramel combines all those great flavors and chocolate chai melts dark chocolate into their unsweetened house-brewed chai.
5427 College Ave.
Timothy Adams Chocolates
Timothy Adams offers the ultimate custom hot chocolate experience. Pick from nine different chocolates ranging from white to dark, from Valrhona to TCHO, combine it with milk, almond milk, or hazelnut milk, and have it served hot with homemade marshmallows or chilled over ice. Spice it up with a Mexican blend, or for parents, make it a mocha. Staff are happy to split an 8 oz. cup between kids but good luck getting them to share. Timothy Adams is a place for the serious chocoholic: the owners have been making chocolate for over twenty years and selling professionally for a decade.
539 Bryant St.
Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay
Although this hot chocolate is only available on Saturdays and Sundays, it’s worth the wait–and the drive. The Ritz-Carlton at Half Moon Bay opens up their hot chocolate bar on their outdoor terrace at 1 p.m. on weekends. After you get your cup of dark or milk hot chocolate, embellish it with all the toppings your heart desires, from cinnamon whipped cream to caramel to chocolate crispies to mini marshmallows. Adults can add a shot of liquor as well if you need extra warming. Enjoy your hot chocolate in front of some of the most spectacular views in the Bay, then get a s’mores kit for your kids to enjoy making over the fire pits.
1 Miramontes Point Rd
Half Moon Bay
COVID-19 Update: Not currently open for on-site dining.
Cocola has locations all over the peninsula and we particularly love getting a hot chocolate from their Santana Row location and finding a sunny spot outside to sit. Grab a chocolate eclair if you're feeling especially indulgent.
2810 Bay Rd.
333 Santana Row #1045
855 Stevens Creek Blvd #1075
Valley Fair Mall
126 Broadway Lane
Equator Coffees & Teas
Equator might be better known for their coffee but which kid can resist a hot chocolate that comes with frothy bear artwork? The dark chocolate they use comes from TCHO, a Bay Area chocolatier that works directly with cacao bean farmers and cooperatives to improve growing and drying methods. Baristas at Equator add sugar and water and mix the chocolate with soy, almond or regular milk creating something that just hits the spot on your way to or from the beach or hiking the trails of Marin.
244 Shoreline Highway
2 Miller Avenue
240 Magnolia Ave.
2 Marina Blvd.
986 Market Street
222 2nd St. (temporarily closed)
175 Bay Place at Lake Merritt