Winter in Chicago is all about parkas and your kid’s mittened hand clutching a glorious cup of hot cocoa. The weather gets downright artic some days, but a steaming cup of hot chocolate will definitely make Jack Frost’s nipping a whole lot easier to handle. If your kids love cocoa—or need a good introduction to it—check out these local restaurants or cafes that make their own from scratch. Scroll to find our favorites.
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Katherine Anne Confections
When this local confectioner isn’t busy making mouthwatering truffles and caramels, it's drawing people with delicious hot chocolate in flavors like bittersweet, semisweet or salted caramel topped with homemade ‘mallows. The secret? Steamed whole milk and a cream-top cream that has 45% butterfat.
2475 W. Armitage Ave., Bucktown; Online: katherine-anne.com
Previously named Mindy's HotChocolate, Chef Mindy Segal of Mindy's Bakery switched things up and is now specializing in handcrafted sourdough bagels and bialys, babka, za'atar challah and seasonal pastries. Lucky for us, Mindy still has a sweet spot for the roasty-toasty drink she serves with a house-made marshmallow on top.
1747 N. Damen Ave., Bucktown; Online: mindysbakery.com
It was named one of the five best cups of hot chocolate in NYC by CBS New York. No need to travel to get your own cup, order the cioccolata con panna at their Lavazza café, which is rich, dark, and sweet. It's a perfect place to take a pause from holiday shopping or while your table is being set in the restaurants upstairs.
43 E. Ohio St., Loop; Online: eataly.com
Oh, yes, Firecakes offers more than donuts. The next time you head here for a chocolate old fashioned or a season favorite, double the decadence with Chef Jonathan Fox's frothed-to-order, Parisian-style hot chocolate. It balances Belgian bittersweet chocolate with organic milk, a touch of vanilla and cane sugar, and is topped with a house-made, Tahitian vanilla bean marshmallow. Be on the lookout for the roaming bakery they loving refer to as Billy the Truck.
Locations in River North, Lincoln Park, Naperville & Oak Park or look for Billy the Truck; Online: firecakesdonuts.com
Little Branch Cafe
Before or after a trip to The Field Museum, head to this neighborhood cafe for a warm-up. It serves creative American favorites for breakfast, lunch or dinner, and is great brunch alternative to nearby Yolk, which always has a longer wait. No matter the time of day, you can't go wrong with hot chocolate made from a tasty combo of vanilla syrup, Ghirardelli chocolate powder and milk, topped with whipped cream and cocoa powder.
1251 S. Prairie Ave., Prairie Avenue Historic District; Online: littlebranchcafe.com
Ghirardelli Chocolate Co.
The San Francisco-based icon is known for its chocolate bars. It also knows a thing or two about the drinkable version. Stop by its Mag Mile location for chocolate mocha, double chocolate or chocolate caramel hot cocoa (or some seasonal favorites!). While you're on a roll, pick up the mixes to take home—and don't forget chocolate and caramel sauces.
830 N. Michigan Ave., Downtown; Online: ghirardelli.com
Chances are you're already familiar with this restaurant known for its organic food and neighborhood charm. The hot chocolate is a new reason to try it. Made from omanhene chocolate and topped with whipped cream, you can have it served in a soup bowl for great slurp-ability.
3800 N. Clark St., Lakeview & 1401 W. Devon Ave., Edgewater; Online: uncommonground.com
While its name is the Mexican slang for "little sister," chef Rick Bayless’ restaurant is a big shot in the hot chocolate scene. The Mexican hot chocolate is made from cacao imported from Tabasco, which is put through a grinding process more meticulous than the judges on Top Chef Masters. One sip and your whole family will be crying olé!
449 N. Clark St., River North; Online: rickbayless.com
Julius Meinl Cafe
Sipping hot chocolate at the Euro-inspired cafe is a special experience. When you dine in, drinks are served on silver platters with glasses of water on the side. The smooth, rich flavor of the hot chocolate is also worth talking about. It's made from steamed milk and milk chocolate powder shipped from Austria. Ask for it topped with whipped cream and homemade marshmallows.
1920 W. Montrose Ave., Ravenswood & 3601 N. Southport Ave.; Online: juliusmeinlchicago.com
Le Chocolat du Bouchard
Get ready for sugar bliss. This Naperville cafe serves a wide variety of decadent hot chocolates, along with cases of baked and chocolate goodies. We highly recommend their carrot cake, one of the best around.
127-129 S. Washington St., Naperville, Online: lechocolatdubouchard.com
— Maria Chambers & Anli Chen