For chocolate fans, New York represents paradise on earth, where you can get fine artisanal chocolates, chocolate produced locally in addition to imported Belgian, French and Swiss truffles and nearly everything else chocolate as well. While a number... more
For chocolate fans, New York represents paradise on earth, where you can get fine artisanal chocolates, chocolate produced locally in addition to imported Belgian, French and Swiss truffles and nearly everything else chocolate as well. While a number of specialty stores such as Dylan's Candy Bar in Midtown East or bakeries such as City Bakery in the Flatiron District have a fine selection of chocolate goods, we thought it would be fun to create a walking tour that combines some exercise along with serious tastings at some of New York's finest chocolatiers. We begin just west of SoHo, proceed through SoHo up to Union Square, and then head over to Chelsea and Greenwich Village. The tour can be reversed and obviously stopped at any time if you exceed your maximum caloric intake for the day (or week)! Of course, you'll find numerous additional recommendations in our Best Chocolate & Sweet Shops Guide. At the intersection of Hudson and King Streets (nearest subway: #1 train to Houston Street) you'll find the massive Jacques Torres Chocolate store, with endless specialties that delight and please all comers. In addition, you can stare through the plate-glass windows and watch the cand... more
For chocolate fans, New York represents paradise on earth, where you can get fine artisanal chocolates, chocolate produced locally in addition to imported Belgian, French and Swiss truffles and nearly everything else chocolate as well. While a number of specialty stores such as Dylan's Candy Bar in Midtown East or bakeries such as City Bakery in the Flatiron District have a fine selection of chocolate goods, we thought it would be fun to create a walking tour that combines some exercise along with serious tastings at some of New York's finest chocolatiers. We begin just west of SoHo, proceed through SoHo up to Union Square, and then head over to Chelsea and Greenwich Village. The tour can be reversed and obviously stopped at any time if you exceed your maximum caloric intake for the day (or week)! Of course, you'll find numerous additional recommendations in our Best Chocolate & Sweet Shops Guide.
At the intersection of Hudson and King Streets (nearest subway: #1 train to Houston Street) you'll find the massive Jacques Torres Chocolate store, with endless specialties that delight and please all comers. In addition, you can stare through the plate-glass windows and watch the candy being manufactured. It's a terrific place!
From here we proceed down Hudson Street three blocks to Spring Street, then walk east four blocks to 80 Thompson Street, the boutique of Kee Ling Tong, a French Culinary Institute graduate who has a modest yet seductive shop called Kee's Chocolates. Do ensure you taste some of the more exotic flavors, for the selection is quite extraordinary. You'll now head a block south and a little more than a block east to a much larger shop, Marie Belle Fine Treats & Chocolates, which has a diverse array of lavishly-packaged products ranging from gift boxes to teas, coffee and larger-sized bars. Do examine the selection in the glass display case, and perhaps head to the back to their Cacao Bar, where you can sit and enjoy an Aztec iced or hot chocolate, along with cakes, pastries, cookies, and other sweet treats.
Now contrast your experience at Marie Belle with that at nearby Vosges Chocolate, which you'll find a block north on Spring Street. Though equally seductive, these two places could not be more different in style. With its lush purple walls and long skinny chocolate bar, the temptations here are fascinating and complex. Try the Collección Gaudí, inspired by the famous Spanish architect. Or perhaps some exotic caramels, or a refreshing iced chocolate. The ice creams are superb and fascinating as well, especially a fiery-hot and appropriately named Red Fire, which has ancho & chipotle chillies, Ceylon cinnamon and dark chocolate. Assuredly you can squeeze in one more SoHo boutique, Divalicious Chocolate on Broome Street, right?
Of course, SoHo isn't just about chocolate boutiques but about chocolate in a wider merchandising context. Since we're about to slowly proceed towards Union Square, we suggest en route to head over to Broadway and Prince Street, where you will stop in at nearby Dean & Deluca to admire the huge selection of designer chocolates. At this point, you can either detour to the east and visit the delightful Bespoke Chocolates near the Bowery and East Houston Street, or simply proceed north and walk the next dozen-plus blocks up to Max Brenner Chocolate by the Bald Man. The walk up Broadway will help bring you back to earth from your current endorphin overload. Brenner is well-known in Israel and Europe, and this flagship location here in New York features the most diverse and unique chocolate menu we've seen. Perhaps enjoy a full meal here, or if you prefer, take your selections to charming Union Square Park just a block away and indulge in public. If you took the Bowery detour to Bespoke, then proceed just a few more blocks up the Bowery to the fabulous Bond Street Chocolate. Meanwhile, if you want all your friends and family to know just how much chocolate you've enjoyed so far, pull out your laptop or PDA and send emails while you eat your truffles!
Now that you've headed up the Bowery or Broadway to Union Square, your cacao fixations in the Union Square area are not limited solely to chocolate boutiques. Whole Foods Market—actually, both the Union Square and Bowery locations—feature a wide assortment of chocolates, innovative ice creams, and desserts, all of which can be consumed in the cozy second-floor dining areas. Or perhaps you're ready for a tea break?
If you still have the energy, proceed north and west from Union Square on 18th Street to the nearby City Bakery, which features a small array of treats in addition to other chocolate desserts and an entire month (February) featuring a different type of hot chocolate each day! Continue on West 18th Street to Ninth Avenue, and then two blocks north up to La Bergamote, where in addition to New York's finest truffles you'll find phenomenal triple chocolate mousse, chocolate mousse cakes, and souris au chocolat (in the adorable shape of chocolate mice).
From here go back down Ninth Avenue four blocks to the Chelsea Market, where you'll find astoundingly rich and flavorful brownies at Fat Witch Bakery, chocolate goodies at Eleni's Bakery, Ruthy's Ruggelach, Sarabeth's and ice cream at Jimmy's Gelato and Leonidas pralines at Chelsea Market Baskets. Exit the market and proceed back to Eighth Avenue: we have only four more stops to go! Make a right on Eighth Avenue, and at the corner of 14th Street head in to Balducci's, this wonderful gourmet temple which of course has a nice selection of chocolates and desserts. Then head south a few blocks south where you'll find two perennial favorites, both Li-Lac Chocolates at #40 and Chocolate Bar at #19.
Still haven't had enough? Don't forget, we listed the best chocolate boutiques all over the city so you can enjoy other offerings in other neighborhoods as well. And make sure you register with our site so you can write reviews of all these wonderful chocolates you've just sampled!
Chocolate lover's tour is located in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan.
The historic SoHo neighborhood ("South of Houston") is bounded by Houston Street to the North and Canal Street to the South. Originally known as the Cast Iron District due to the many buildings with such façades, SoHo's historic roots date to the mid-19th Century, when cast iron was discovered as an architectural material that was cheap, flexible, yet sturdy enough to use to build decorative building facades. Craftsmen transformed what had been rather bleak looking industrial buildings made of brick and mortar into structures of architectural splendor and grace. SoHo today still exhibits the greatest concentration of cast iron architecture in the world. SoHo's decorative facades, along with its ornate fire escapes, Corinthian columns, oversized windows, and beautiful lobbies, are the signature features of a neighborhood that first-time visitors often instantly fall in love with.
For the bulk of the 20th century, this neighborhood remained a relatively quiet and unassuming manufacturing district. The SoHo we know today emerged in the 1960's and 70's when artists discovered that the cheap factory spaces vacated by departing businesses could be converted into lofts and studios. The wide spaces and tall ceilings the factories had required were especially appealing to artists as they could create and store large pieces of artwork there. The New York Loft Board, charged with regulating and resolving issues regarding the legalization and use of certain loft buildings converted to residential use, assisted artists-in-residence in negotiating the complex legal issues.
After the SoHo Cast Iron Historic District became synonymous with the inflated art prices and lavish exhibits of the 1980s, more and more artists sought out other areas to work and reside, such as Long Island City, Williamsburg, and Chelsea. In turn, SoHo loft prices skyrocketed, and multimillion-dollar prices for full-floor lofts became rather common in the new millennium. Rents rapidly increased, and galleries moved north to the old garages of far-west Chelsea. In an ironic twist of fate, now galleries are leaving overpriced far-west Chelsea for the Lower East Side in the wake of the New Museum of Contemporary Art building its permanent home on the Bowery.
While western SoHo fortunately is largely protected from the current spate of building ugly large glass towers, Donald Trump's massive hotel on its westernmost fringes as well as forthcoming projects on the Bowery will permanently change the historic character of this fragile neighborhood. Architecture buffs will want to take our walking tour of the new architecture of Manhattan, which takes in a number of recent SoHo creations.
Now that SoHo has flourished and grown for over 35 years—ever since it gained credibility and status as a neighborhood when New York City officially recognized this up and coming district in 1973—visitors marvel not only at the architecture, but also at the vibrant cultural and commercial life on the neighborhood's historic streets. During the day, the sidewalks in this district are generally teeming with tourists, shoppers, and vendors selling t-shirts, jewelry, and original works of art. Shopping addicts know the area has some terrific vintage clothing stores that are true SoHo shopping experiences and bargains. Lower Broadway is home to everything from Bloomingdale’s to Calypso (whimsical, gorgeous clothing and furnishings) to Pearl River Mart (Asian housewares and gifts.) Many of SoHo's famous stores and boutiques are found on Prince and Spring streets, with Prada, Chanel, Kid Robot, and two relatively new additions, Jill Sander (at the corner of Crosby and Grove Streets), and an Apple Computer Store (in a former post office on Prince Street) all located in this vicinity.
In fact, there are so many cool boutique, vintage and consignment stores in SoHo to choose from. Add, a spacious accessories shop, caters to handbag connoisseurs who worship designer bags but would rather not drop thousands at a luxury boutique like Prada or Louis Vuitton. West Broadway, the Champs-Elysées of SoHo, also features an impressive list of boutiques across a broad spectrum of choices. Tag Heuer Boutique presents an impressive collection of Swiss luxury sports watches. Cleo & Patek, also on West Broadway, deserves mention for its fine accessories collection, and if men's fashion is what you're looking for you'll find high quality clothing at Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, and Reiss of London here, or just around the corner and down Spring Street, you can check out the latest J. Lindeberg collections.
Great restaurants are literally everywhere you turn in SoHo, and they are well-known for both the fine cuisine they serve and their stylish milieus. The French bistro Balthazar, and the authentic Raoul's for Italian fare are both highly recommended. Along West Broadway you'll find celebrity hotspot, Cipriani Downtown, and the inviting, often open-windowed façade and lively atmosphere at Felix. For Japanese cuisine two blocks over on Sullivan Street you can dine at Blue Ribbon Sushi.
Beloved for its neighborly old world beauty and charm, and its nearly skyscraperless skyline, SoHo has also become a favored choice for luxury hotel dwellers, especially among those who wish to escape the hustle and bustle of midtown Manhattan. The Mercer Hotel is SoHo's foremost luxury boutique hotel and the first of its kind to offer an authentic taste of loft living. At the lower end of West Broadway near Canal Street sits the noble SoHo Grand, a popular overnight choice for visiting celebrity clientele, and on the western side of SoHo lies SIXTY SOHo, a boutique hotel designed by famed interior designer, Thomas O'Brien.
Notable landmark architecture in the SoHo neighborhood, aside from the approximately 250 cast iron buildings (such as the E.V. Haughwout Building at 488 Broadway), include The Little Singer Building on Broadway, designed by Beaux-Arts trained New York architect Ernest Flagg in 1902; the six-story iron front building at 112 Prince Street designed in 1889 by Richard Berger; and lastly, New York's most peculiar subway map, an 87-foot long work of art consisting of concrete rods embedded in the sidewalk at 110 Greene Street which was created by Belgian artist, Francoise Schein, in 1986. You might also admire the five-story trompe l’oeil mural at 114 Prince Street, which is a longstanding two-dimensional cast iron façade—in paint.
If you want to stay in a historic neighborhood where great restaurants abound, where the stores are boutique chic, and hotels marvelously accommodating, SoHo is simply the place to be.