Hot chocolate may be an impulsive guilty pleasure, but once the snow starts blowing in the Windy City, it becomes one of the most delicious ways to warm up. From rich, chef-driven cups of authentic bean-cocoa to decadent housemade marshmallows, Chicago’s hot chocolate game is divinely impressive. A few of our go-to choices around town follow.
Already a welcome destination during the holiday season to visitors and locals alike, the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star hotel tempts with seasonal sippers at Allium, including its Chocolate Caliente Mexicano ($11), which includes guajillo, abuelas churros and dulce de leche. Plus, you can kick it up a notch with a shot of tequila ($16). Another warming option is the Haute Chocolate ($14), served with spiced marshmallows and pumpkin truffle, and you can also opt to add a shot of Grand Marnier ($20) for an extra dose of excitement. What makes these options even better is that Allium is the ultimate cozy spot during Chicago winters, where you can easily warm up beside its crackling fireplace on a cold night.
Tucked off the beaten path in the city’s Logan Square neighborhood, Katherine Anne Confections’ charming storefront sweets factory is a destination in and of itself. The shop offers multiple hot chocolate slow sippers ($7 regular, $8 seasonal), from the truly intense bittersweet, using 72-percent chocolate, to a salted caramel variety. Of course, if you don’t quite get your sugar fill after the hot chocolate, the store also offers a slew of delectable truffles in flavors such as goat cheese walnut and chai tea.
There are few Chicago dining experiences as rewarding as sipping a hot chocolate at Mindy Segal’s eponymous Bucktown restaurant, and it’s worth every calorie. A half-dozen hot chocolate varietals grace the menu year-round ($6), and a special Eggnog version — French white chocolate, caramelized white chocolate, nutmeg, vanilla bean and a hint of orange — is on offer through the season, with Hot Chocolate’s signature housemade marshmallow. And if you can’t get enough of the sweet beverage while you’re there, you can also purchase a variety of hot chocolate mixes at the restaurant or online, with flavors such as butterscotch and malted milk and espresso.
One of the best spots in River North to grab a cup of hot chocolate is at Rick Bayless’ “little sister” restaurant to Topolobampo and Frontera Grill, XOCO. On offer are five bean-to-cup varieties ($2.75 and up) as well as a trio of “chocolate coffees” ($3): chocolate espresso, chocolate cappuccino and chocolate café con leche. We’re fond of the authentic variety: fresh ground chocolate and water, served with a churro — and yes, you’re allowed to dunk it.
Photos Courtesy of Genevieve Burruss and Katherine Anne Confections