“Sweets for my sweet” went the lyric to a popular 1960s song recorded by The Drifters and others, and when Valentine’s Day comes around in mid-February every year, there are always plenty of people who are buying just that.
Chocolate has been associated with the holiday since 1861, when English confectioner Richard Cadbury — founder of the now-massive London-based Cadbury candy company, most famous for its springtime Creme Eggs — had the brilliant idea of packaging his chocolates for the occasion in heart-shaped boxes adorned with Cupids and rosebuds. He really started something: The seven-week Valentine’s selling season now sees annual sales of candy, mints, and gum exceeding $4 billion, according to the trade publication Candy & Snack Today, more than half of that total accounted for by chocolate.
Mass-market companies like Russell Stover and its Whitman’s subsidiary — both now owned by the Swiss chocolate company Lindt & Sprüngli — sell the majority of that. Most smaller independent chocolate shops create their own Valentine’s Day gift boxes and/or other seasonal chocolates, too, however, and these generally offer a greater variety and use better-quality chocolate, often sourced sustainably.
There probably aren’t many cities or towns of any size in this country that don’t have at least one chocolate shop. A quick check reveals that there are at least 80 currently operating in New York City, for instance, and more than 30 in Los Angeles. It’s hard to tell how many there are in total, however, because many purveyors of fine chocolate double as pastry or gift shops, ice cream parlors, or gourmet markets. (Here’s a list of the best ice cream shops in America.)
In order to identify the 25 best chocolate shops in America, 24/7 Tempo reviewed listings and rankings on sites including Food & Wine, Simply Chocolate, Eater, The Daily Meal, and Culture Trip, as well as numerous local and regional sources, then used editorial discretion to make our final choice. Needless to say, there are scores and scores of other top-notch chocolate shops around the country, all worth considering too.
Click here to read about the 25 best chocolate shops in America.
Cacao & Cardamom Chocolatier
- Location: Houston, TX
Well-traveled chocolatier Annie Rupani — she worked for her family’s non-profit development foundation in Pakistan, attended Boston University classes in London and Amman, studied chocolate-making in Kuala Lumpur, and has logged time in Italy, Greece, Lebanon, Egypt, and China — took a detour from her planned legal studies to craft chocolate full-time, setting up shop in 2014. Not surprisingly, her offerings combine top-quality chocolate with such worldly elements as garam masala, fennel, cinnamon, black sesame, and of course cardamom.
- Location: Stuart, FL
Castronovo co-founder Denise Castronovo, who styles herself an “Ecopreneur, Chocolate Maker & Ecologist,” not only produces superb chocolate with cacao sources from Central and South America, but seeks out wild and heirloom varieties and ensures that they are harvested and processed in ways that “enable protection of the rainforest and indigenous cultures.” Among her medal-winning bars have been Honduras Dark Milk with Fleur de Sel (60%) and Sierra Nevada Colombia Dark Milk (63%).
Chocolatá Artisanal Chocolatier
- Location: Birmingham, AL
Chocolatá founder Kathy d’Agostino’s first job as a youngster was helping a chocolate-maker near her family’s home, and she has never looked back. Today, using 100% ethically sourced single-origin chocolate from Latin America, she produces such creations as the Soma bar (Ecuadorian white chocolate flavored with turmeric, ginger, and other spices), chocolate-enhanced popcorn and granola, and a range of bonbons in unusual shapes.
- Location: Davenport, IA
This Quad Cities chocolate shop has been run by the Mohr family since the start of the 21st century, producing an array of truffles, caramels, toffees, turtles, and more. The shop also offers tours (reserve a week in advance), which include a chance to watch the production process, sample the family’s wares, and even a make your own chocolates.
- Location: Honolulu (Oahu), HI
Hawaiian-born Erin Kanno Uehara, owner and CCO (Chocolate Connections Officer — the shop also has a team of CEOs, meaning Chocolate Everything Officers), opened up in 2014 and quickly expanded. As a result of the pandemic, however, she scaled back and now concentrates on her original store — which turns out a range of excellent truffles (including a mochi variety), chocolate-dipped fruit, chocolate animal crackers, Chinese-style good look tokens made of chocolate, and other specialties.
- Location: Taos, NM
Deborah Vincent and Javier Abad met in Venezuela a couple of decades ago and ended up going into the chocolate business there before moving to Taos, where Vincent had family. In 2015, they opened Chokolá, specializing in small batches of bars made with single-origin chocolate sourced sustainably from Belize, Venezuela, Peru, Colombia, Guatemala, and other Central and South American countries, with packaging featuring the work of local artists, of whom Taos has plenty.
Cocoa Dolce Artisan Chocolates
- Location: Wichita, KS
Master Chocolatier Beth Tully launched Cocoa Dolce in 2005, and found immediate success. After opening a second store in Overland Park that underperformed, however, she sold the operation to a Wichita-based private equity firm, Birds Eye Holdings. Firm principal Ben Voegeli’s family now runs it. The output includes a variety of bars, “bites,” and chocolate-covered nuts, among other items — as well as brownies, cookies, and macarons.
- Location: Portland, OR
Tim Straub and his family were small-scale farmers before opening Creo in 2014, and they felt a kinship with their counterparts growing cacao beans around the world, so developed initiatives to work closely with them. Creo’s substantial repertoire includes bars (including a 100% cacao version, as well as vegan options), truffles, caramels, chocolate-covered fruit and nuts, and cacao and chocolate powders for hot drinks.
Dancing Lion Chocolate
- Location: Manchester, NH
Richard Tango-Lowy was trained as a physicist, but fell under the spell of chocolate-making, and went on to the craft in Paris, Vancouver, and Belize, opening Dancing Lion in 2007. His bars and truffles are, he has said, “limited edition works of art.” He makes each one in small quantities and never repeats a recipe. He also fashions spectacular artifacts, available by special order, like a chocolate bonsai tree and edible raku teacups.
- Location: Seattle, WA
Founded by former accountant Fran Bigelow in Seattle’s Madison Park neighborhood in 1982, Fran’s has become one of the nation’s best-known and well-reviewed chocolate shops — and is the one that introduced America to chocolate caramels enhanced with sea salt (France’s esteemed fleur de sel, to be precise). There are now four Fran’s locations in the Seattle area, plus two in Japan. The choice of chocolate indulgences is immense, including bon bons, bars, peanut butter cups, chocolate-covered candied citrus, luxurious drinking chocolate, and of course those sea salt caramels.
Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates
- Location: Sacramento, CA
Native Californian Ginger Elizabeth Hahn trained as a pastry chef under New York City’s famous Jacques Torres (see below) and award-winning Chicago patissier En-Ming Hsu. Back in her home state, after a stint making desserts at a restaurant, she opened a wholesale chocolate operation in 2005, and then pivoted to retail in 2008. Her chocolate boxes are much in demand. She also makes a number of bars (one, for instance, with caramelized oats, pecans, and California Bing cherries), and is known for her macarons.
Harlem Chocolate Factory
- Location: New York City, NY
Harlem’s only chocolate shop was opened in 2015 by Jessica Spaulding and Asha Dixon. They originally sold their hand-made chocolates at local markets, but in 2018, launched a production kitchen and retail store on Strivers’ Row. They make Brownstone Bars, imprinted with images of brownstone façades, as well as small-batch truffles and bon bons, and their chocolates were called out as one of Oprah’s Favorite Things in 2020.
Hatch Family Chocolates
- Location: Salt Lake City, UT
Billing themselves as the Utah capital’s “favorite indulgence since 2003,” Hatch Family Chocolates produces an array of hand-dipped chocolate confections, as well as chocolate-covered Oreos, dried fruits, and pretzel sticks, among other items, and also makes a few varieties of ice cream. Proprietors Steve Hatch and his wife, Katie Masterson, gained some measure of renown in early 2010 when they were the focus of a TLC reality show called “Little Chocolatiers” — in the course of which they constructed a chocolate pool table, fireplace, dollhouse, and more.
Jacques Torres Chocolate
- Location: New York City and Brooklyn, NY
Numerous chocolatiers, on this list and otherwise, source their cocoa beans from sustainable operations, often establishing relationships with farmers and paying fair-trade prices. Famed pastry chef Jacques Torres, however, goes further. Working with the Mexican-based NGO called Cacao-Trace, he promises “a commitment to premium quality cacao beans, an ethical supply chain, sustainable farming and agroforestry practices, and long term commitment to improved revenue and living conditions of farmers.” He also pays farmers a premium and bonus, amounting to two-to-five months worth of additional income for them. The results are a treasury of great chocolate — bon bons, truffles, bars, brittle, chocolate chip cookies, and much more, as well as heart-shaped Valentine’s Day boxes (and heart-shaped bon bons).
John Kelly Chocolates
- Location: Hollywood and Santa Monica, CA
John Kelly started out as a wholesale chocolate factory in Hollywood, then opened first a Hollywood boutique, which earned a celebrity clientele, and later a Santa Monica location. (There is no John Kelly — the company is a partnership between John Kelson and Kelly Green.) In addition to the usual bars, caramels, etc., John Kelly sells a range of extravagantly rich truffle fudge bars.
L.A. Burdick Handmade Chocolates
- Location: Boston and Cambridge, MA; Chicago, IL; Walpole, NH; New York City, NY; and Washington, D.C.
Founder Larry Burdick studied chocolate-making in Switzerland, which is pretty much Chocolate Central, then returned to the U.S. and opened his first shop, in New York City, in 1987 — determined to make artisanal European-style chocolates at a time when they were mostly unknown here. The Burdick signature is a collection of tiny hand-crafted chocolate mice and penguins, but there’s also a wide choice of bars, bon bon assortments, drinking chocolate, and other forms of chocolate.
La Châtelaine Chocolat Co.
- Location: Bozeman, MT
With two shops in Bozeman (one in the lobby of the Baxter Hotel), Wlady and Shannon Hughes Grochowski create an assortment of imaginatively decorated individual chocolates in various shapes. Dark chocolate with absinthe dust, milk chocolate with English pudding flavors, and white chocolate with lemon and Provençal lavender are among the more unusual choices.
Lake Champlain Chocolates
- Location: Burlington, Stowe, and Waterbury Center, VT
This company’s proprietor, Jim Lampman, started making truffles for the staff of his Ice House Restaurant in Burlington in 1983, then transitioned into full-time chocolate-making. Today, he and his family run a factory store and two offshoots, sourcing fair-trade certified non-GMO cocoa and other ingredients from around the world. The wide range of specialties includes truffles, bars, squares, coins, peanut butter treats, caramels, and English toffee.
Mānoa Chocolate Hawaii
- Location: Kailua (Oahu), HI
Hawaii is the only U.S. state with a climate suitable for growing cacao commercially, and Mānoa, opened in 2010 by Kailua-born Dylan Butterbaugh, uses as much of the locally grown product as possible for its bean-to-bar specialties. Hawaiian liliko’i (passion fruit), sea salt, and coffee are also incorporated into some products. There are also individual offerings made with cocoa grown on both Oahu and the Big Island of Hawaii.
Piety and Desire Chocolate
- Location: New Orleans, LA
“We strive to strike the perfect harmony between reverence and passion,” reads the mission statement on this innovative Magazine Street chocolate shop’s website. Chris Nobles, who opened the place in 2017, was a restaurant cook who fell in love with the lore of chocolate-making. His bean-to-bar offerings, sourced from Tanzania, Vietnam, the Philippines, and elsewhere, are made with unrefined Louisiana cane sugar, giving them a unique local character.
Ragged Coast Chocolates
- Location: Westbrook, ME
Founded by Kate and Steve Shaffer in 2007 as Black Dinah Chocolatiers on Maine’s Isle au Haut, this artisanal chocolate company moved to Westbrook, near Portland, in 2015 and changed its name to Ragged Coast five years later. (Black Dinah is the name of a mountain on the Isle au Haut, but they renamed their enterprise after learning that the phrase was also a term for enslaved women.) Chocolate truffles and chocolate caramels are the specialties.
- Location: San Francisco, CA
Self-trained chocolatier Michael Recchiuti and his wife, Jacky, founded this chocolate business in 1997. Chocolates are produced in small batches, using traditional European methods. In addition to bon bons and bars, Recchiuti offers such original creations as a box of chocolates designed to pair with red wine, another to pair with whiskey, and apple slices soaked in Key lime juice and then dipped in chocolate. There’s also a Creativity Explored box, sold to help support a non-profit visual arts center of that name, which helps artists with developmental disabilities create, exhibit, and sell art.
The Secret Chocolatier
- Location: Charlotte, NC
In 2011, after three years of hand-crafting chocolates and selling them at local farmers markets and retail shops, the Dietz and Ciordia families opened their own shop — which didn’t remain a secret for long. Barks (a blueberry chili confection, for example) are something of a specialty, but the product list here includes bon bons, caramels, toffee, cookies, brownie pops, and more.
Tejas Chocolate Craftory
- Location: Tomball, TX
Talk about culinary heaven: Tejas started as a chocolate shop, buying premium cacao beans from around the world and slow-roasting them in a custom-built brick oven. Then, realizing that this city near Houston could use a barbecue joint, owners Scott Moore Jr., Greg Moore, and Michelle Holland added serious smoked meats to their operation. That’s a subject for another story, but the chocolate portion of things offers single-origin tasting squares, chocolate bars, and truffles, among other treats.
Vosges Haut Chocolat
- Location: Chicago, IL
Vosges chocolatier and “alchemist” Katrina Markoff was a kitchen apprentice under the game-changing Catalan chefs Ferran and Albert Adrià at the legendary elBulli, then took their inspiration out of the savory kitchen and learned how to craft exquisite truffles, bars, caramels, and other sweets. Her truffles are particularly beautiful to look at, and of course delicious. In addition to Valentine’s Day hearts, there are unique pairing boxes packaged with such blue-chip wines as Ceretto Barolo and Prima Materia Zinfandel, and a nine-piece collection infused with The Dalmore single malt Scotch. (These are the 20 most popular whiskey brands in America.)