12 West Coast Chocolate Shops Raising The Bar

First it was wine. Then coffee. And now it's chocolate. The West Coast has always been one step ahead on food trends, and it's ahead of the curve again — this time with craft chocolate. Sure, the popularity of so-called bean-to-bar chocolate makers is exploding (hello, Mast Brothers), but it can still be pretty hard to find to good stuff. Unless, that is, you live in California, Oregon or Washington. Here are 12 must-try shops that not only specialize in delicious craft chocolate; they'll give you s-a-m-p-l-e-s.


San Francisco: Fog City News 

By the name, you might think this shop specializes in the printed word. And while it does stock more than 700 foreign periodicals, greeting cards and other newsy items, it also specializes in craft chocolate. Fog City News boasts one of the largest chocolate-bar collections in the United States, as well as truffles and bonbons from craft makers. Think bars from Dauphin, Michel Cluizel, Rococo and many, many more. 455 Market Street Shopping Center, 455 Market St., San Francisco, 415-543-7400

San Francisco: Chocolate Covered 

It's hard not to rave about the quirky, bright-blue storefront in Noe Valley with more types of chocolate than you could eat in a lifetime. Whether you're craving a Mo's Milk Chocolate Bacon Bar from Vosges or a 100 percent bar from Soma, owner Jack Epstein has what you're looking for. 4069 24th St., San Francisco, 415-641-8123

San Francisco: Dandelion Chocolate 

Why shop at a specialty store when you can go straight to the source? This bean-to-bar chocolate maker has opened its own storefront and café in the Mission District, and it's about to open a second, even bigger space. Find a selection of bars as well as more chocolate treats than you can handle. Will you have the European-style drinking chocolate? The s'more with chocolate from Papua New Guinea? Or the brownie flight, with brownies featuring chocolate from three different countries? Answer: all three. 740 Valencia St., San Francisco, 415-349-0942

Palo Alto: The Chocolate Garage 

Owner Sunita de Tourreil carries what she calls "happy chocolate": Everyone from the farmer to the maker acts ethically and knowledgeably and is paid well for their work. She also crowd-funds bars from top makers like Rogue and Patric, available exclusively through the Chocolate Garage. Make sure you plan your visit, though, since most of the week is reserved for private events. Pro tip: De Tourreil leads free tastings when the storefront is open, Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Wednesdays from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.. 654 Gilman St., Palo Alto, 650-603-0824

Oakland: Bittersweet: The Chocolate Café 

The two locations of this café are a chocoholic's dream. Beyond delectable baked goods like homemade Oreos, flourless chocolate cake and drinks like chai hot chocolate, they specialize in high-end chocolate bars from artisan makers like Amano and the Grenada Chocolate Company. Stay tuned for a new store with a selection exclusively curated by chocolate expert David Salowich. 5427 College Ave., Oakland, 510-654-7159; 1438 Broadway, Oakland, 510-238-8700

Los Angeles: Vosges Haut-Chocolat 

Though you'll find their bacon-studded Mo's Bars across the country, if you're in Beverly Hills, you can get it straight from the maker at the Vosges shop. They sell everything: organic chocolate, vegan chocolate, gluten-free. Try inclusion bars with superfoods like açai and matcha green tea, as well as more than your fair share of high-end truffles. 311 North Beverly Dr., Los Angeles, 310-275-3621

Los Angeles: Wally's Wine 

What goes better with chocolate than wine? This store has been around since the 1960s, but it was recently bought by the Marciano brothers (the founders of Guess). Their specialty-foods selection includes standout American chocolate brands like Ritual and Dandelion as well as European stars like Amedei, Bonnat and Michel Cluizel. Buy them at the Cheese Box inside Wally's or at the Vinoteca specialty shop (and don't be afraid to ask for samples). Look for Wally's to expand to Chicago, New York, Paris and London soon. 2107 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-475-0606

Santa Monica: Farmshop 

The stylish New American restaurant also features killer artisan goods. Head forager Emiliano Lee works with Bar Cacao's Jessica Ferraro to carry craft-chocolate brands like Fresco, Fruition, Ritual, Askinosie and Dick Taylor (from Arcata). I'm still swooning over the ones made with recently rediscovered Nacionale cacao, like Ritual's Marañón. Also check out inclusion bars like Fruition's 70 percent Rustic Crunch with vanilla beans. Brentwood Country Mart, 225 26th St., Santa Monica, 310-566-2400


Portland: Cacao 

The doors at this duo of little shops in downtown Portland welcome you with the words "Drink Chocolate," and you must obey. They mean it in a literal and figurative sense: Owners Aubrey Lindley and Jesse Manis make a delicious drinking-chocolate blend, and they also curate craft-chocolate bars from the best in the world, with a focus on American makers and specifically those local to Portland, like Woodblock Chocolate. Ask about a bar and fall down the rabbit hole of samples. 414 Southwest 13th Ave., Portland, 503-241-0656; 712 SW Salmon St,. Portland, 503-274-9510

Portland: The Meadow 

If the prospect of chocolate isn't enough to draw you in, the twinkly lights, elegant flower displays and wall of specialty salts should do the trick. There are two locations of this shop, which have been so successful that they opened one in New York, too. Look for standout dark milk-chocolate bars like Raaka Chocolate's 60 percent vegan coconut milk and the Mast Brothers' newest: a 60 percent goat milk available in early February. 3731 N. Mississippi Ave., Portland, 503-288-4633; 805 Northwest 23rd Ave., Portland, 503-305-3388


Seattle: Chocolopolis 

Owner Lauren Adler knows her stuff. She only carries the tastiest artisan chocolate and organizes her collection by country. Why? Each country's beans have a different flavor profile (like wine grapes): For example, Venezuela's are nutty, Madagascar's are fruity and Southeast Asia's are earthy. See for yourself at the store's free chocolate happy hours on Thursdays from 5 to 9 p.m., or check out an event with some of the chocolate makers themselves. While you're there, grab a signature drinking chocolate and a few of the store's handmade truffles: The Madagascar craft truffle, the Dominican Republic house-blend truffle and the lemon-lavender truffle all won gold or silver at the 2014 International Chocolate Awards. 1527 Queen Anne Ave. North, Seattle, 206-282-0776

Seattle: Theo Chocolate 

Do you know what it takes to make that bean-to-bar chocolate? Visit the maker's factory in Fremont to take a tour and see the machines churning heavenly goodness yourself, all for $10. After the hour-long guided tour, spend some time in the retail store, where you'll find Theo's entire line, including caramels, ganache, bark, toffee and, of course, chocolate bars. 3400 Phinney Ave. North, Seattle, 206-632-5100

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