Sweet sixteen: 16 L.A. chocolate and candy shops

Sweet sixteen: 16 L.A. chocolate and candy shops
Valentine's Day chocolates from Valerie Confections. (Amy Scattergood / Los Angeles Times)

Whether you're looking for French or Mexican handmade chocolate for beribboned boxes of candy for your kids and their friends for school Valentine's Day parties or bags of sea salt caramels for your own habit, it's useful to have a list of local chocolate and candy shops — kind of like Willy Wonka's version of Yelp. Here are 16 of our favorite places, an itinerary of shops that specialize in various points of the sugar spectrum, including the Beverly Hills chocolate shop where Lucille Ball got the inspiration for the famous "I Love Lucy" candy episode, a Hollywood factory where you can build your own chocolate bar and a Culver City store that has a chocolate tasting menu and refillable hot chocolate growlers. Because somebody loves us all.

ChocoVivo — Patricia Tsai moved her bean-to-bar chocolate shop from Venice to Culver City a year and a half ago. She makes chocolate bars, either plain for baking or in various flavors — she has a tasting menu — for eating on-site every Monday, using stone-ground chocolate that she gets from a farm in Tabasco, Mexico. The chocolate also goes into mugs of hot chocolate or sipping chocolate. Although you can add dairy to the mugs, the bars themselves have no dairy or soy and are thus great for vegans desperate for good chocolate. The shop feels like Groundwork Coffee Co., with beans and burlap and a counter to sit at and drink and sample from that chocolate tasting menu. If that's not reason enough to become a regular, you can also get the hot chocolate to go — in chocolate growlers. 12467 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (310) 845-6259,


Compartes — Walk into the new Compartes chocolate shop inside Alfred Coffee and Kitchen on Melrose Place, and you'll be forgiven for thinking you've found the perfect hybrid of Willy Wonka, a Chanel boutique and a David Bowie music video. (The original shop is in Brentwood.) Owner Jonathan Grahm designed the new shop, which is lined with custom-made chocolate bars in many flavors and has a bathroom devoted to Marilyn Monroe. For Valentine's Day, he is going all out, with rainbow heart Oreos (in a red velvet box), truffles with limited-edition patterns, strawberries dipped in single-origin organic chocolate and "Love Nuts" in a tower set. 8428 Melrose Place, West Hollywood, (323) 475-8986; 912 S. Barrington Ave., Brentwood, (310) 826-3380,

Dylan's Candy Bar — If you have a preteen or teenage daughter, you've probably spent a lot of time in this upscale sweets shop at the Original Farmers Market. The shop, owned by Dylan Lauren, daughter of Ralph, opened in 2012 as the L.A. outpost of her New York candy boutique. It's a brightly colored fun-house place, loaded with novelty candy, chocolate, DIY bins and tables filled with seasonal sweets, including quite a selection for Valentine's Day. There's even an ice cream window if you want a cone while you shop at the nearby Grove. 6333 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles, (323) 930-1600,

Edelweiss Chocolates — This old-school Beverly Hills chocolate shop began life in 1942 as Candy Roundup, and if you walk through the shop from the back, as do the regulars, you can see the original machines, which are all still in use. Lucille Ball did this one day when the 1940s-era chocolate enrober was malfunctioning and got the idea for her famous 1952 "I Love Lucy" episode, "Job Switching," which is why there's a picture of Ball above the machine now. The shop's second owner was Swiss, and he's the one who renamed the place and added European-style chocoate to the repertoire. Now owned by the Zahir family, Edelweiss continues to make classic chocolates using the original equipment and offers 85 types of chocolate candies, including their popular chocolate-covered pretzels. A second shop opened in the Brentwood Country Mart in 2005. 444 N. Cañon Drive, Beverly Hills, (310) 275-6003,

Jack's Wholesale Candy Warehouse — If you're looking not for a tiny, expensive chocolate boutique but an enormous warehouse, you might want to head to downtown L.A. and the 40,000 square feet of candy that is Jack's, so-called because the business traces its operation to the 1930s, when a guy named Jack Levy started selling candy from a little cart. Since 1980, Jack's has been owned by the Ahamed family, who now operate a giant retail and wholesale business on Central Avenue. Not only do people come for the massive selection but also for the wholesale prices, which allow you to load your car with huge helpings of Brach's and Cadbury's, Chipurnoi and Haribo, Nestlé and Hershey's on the cheap. Valentine's Day is also peak candy-buying time, especially if you have kids who want lots of heart-shaped candies for schoolmates but don't have a big budget. 777 S. Central Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 622-9287,  

Jin Patisserie — Since Jin Patisserie closed shop on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice, it's been a bit harder to find Kristy Choo's glorious macarons and chocolates. But they've hardly disappeared, just relocated. Now in an industrial complex in Culver City, Jin Patisserie operates a tiny retail shop at their production facility, where they do mostly wholesale business and are open six days a week to the public. There you can pick up Choo's macarons, cookies and cakes, and selections of her chocolates, all made with Swiss Felchlin chocolate and in a variety of flavors and patterns. Although they didn't have one for Valentine's Day, come Mother's Day, they'll probably do a pop-up shop as they did last year. 5741 Buckingham Parkway, Suite D, Culver City, (310) 399-8801,

Joan's on Third — Joan McNamara has been operating L.A.'s version of Dean & DeLuca since 1998, providing us all with great food, catering and exquisite gifts both from her original shop on 3rd Street and her recently opened second shop in Studio City. You can find chocolate in the form of brownies, cookies, cupcakes, roulade and cake slices. And on the counters and racks and shelves, which McNamara fills with gift items, there are Valentine's candies, bonbons, heart-shaped cookies and those old-fashioned little conversation hearts we all used to get as kids. 8350 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles, (323) 655-2285; 12059 Ventura Place, Studio City, (818) 201-3900,

John Kelly Chocolates — John Kelly Chocolates began life a decade ago as a wholesale chocolate factory in a small location in Hollywood. Ten years later, owners John Kelson and Kelly Green (the company name is a combination of their first names) have a retail shop next to that factory as well as another location in Santa Monica. Their signature Belgian chocolate is something called truffle fudge, and the pair fashion it into various exquisite iterations. They also make walnut caramel clusters, chocolate and peanut butter bars, tiny chocolate frogs and butterflies, chocolate-dipped dried apricots and figs and shortbread. You can also get gift towers, which look like the Platonic ideal of those Harry & David stacked boxes your relatives send you for Christmas. 1508 N. Sierra Bonita Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 851-3269,

L'Artisan du Chocolat — Christian Alexandre and his wife, Whajung Park, have been making exquisite, artisanal chocolates since 2001, first for Picholine (where the two met) and now at their own store, a tiny shop next to Valerie Confection on 1st Street in the Westlake neighborhood. The couple — he's a former mayor from France, she's from South Korea and trained in Paris as a chocolatier — make chocolate the traditional French way, with no preservatives and relatively little sugar. The chocolates come in a variety of flavors, from traditional to more unusual, including lavender, coffee, pistachio, orange, rose, matcha, pomegranate, Earl Grey, goji berry, cucumber-vodka, speculoos and bacon — all stenciled with pretty colored patterns. And for Valentine's Day, there are chocolate-filled heart-shaped boxes. 3364 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, (213) 252-8721,

Little Flower Candy Co. — Christine Moore's Pasadena shop is a neighborhood cafe with great sandwiches, salads and baked goods. But it's also a fantastic gift shop, stocked with seasonal candies, chocolates and frilly things — and Moore's sea salt caramels and marshmallows, which engendered her shop in the first place. For Valentine's Day, the place has been reconfigured with hearts and lots of pink, including candies and chocolates and also heart-shaped cookies from Little Flower pastry chef extraordinaire Cecilia Leung. 1422 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, (626) 304-4800,

Littlejohn's English Toffee — There's toffee and then there's the kind of insanely addictive stuff that family-owned Littlejohn's has been making since 1924 and in its current location in the Original Farmers Market since 1946. You can get fudge, caramels, divinity, chocolate-covered fruit., gift boxes and other candies. But really, you're here for the toffee, boxed in red and pink for Feb. 14, a treat which operates in many Los Angeles households like currency. 6333 W. 3rd St., Suite 432, Los Angeles, (323) 936-5379,


Lolli and Pops — This shop is a hybrid of two worlds: the contemporary universe of indoor shopping that is the Glendale Galleria and the Old World charm of a shop that's decorated in wood and hand-lettered chalk signs, where the person bagging your chocolates is dressed like an early 20th century soda jerk. Lolli and Pops, which opened in Glendale last year, has (appropriately) a soda fountain, chocolates and candies sourced from around the world, and tables and shelves filled with very cute things, such as teddy bears and giant lollipops, and candy cases filled with chocolate-covered strawberries, marzipan, petits fours and more. 1128 Glendale Galleria, Glendale, (818) 546-1813,


Mignon —  Mignon is a lovely old-fashioned shop, or rather two of them: the original in Glendale, which has been open for 11 years, and a more recent outpost in Pasadena. Both shops carry a large selection of chocolates, filled and flavored (matcha, saffron marzipan, Cuban mojito, etc.) and often stenciled with pretty patterns. There are Valentine's Day boxes, including one filled with red chocolate lips. Or, if you're having a really big party for your loved one, you can rent a chocolate fountain, which includes not only the fountain and the chocolate but also a "professional chocolate host." 315 N. Verdugo Road, Glendale, (818) 549-9600; 6 E. Holly St., Pasadena, (626) 796-7100,

Sugarfina — Imagine a high-end modern candy boutique smack in the middle of Beverly Hills and you might well picture something like Sugarfina. It's a gorgous jewel box of a shop, all bright lights and pastels and pristine display cases, like an edible Tiffany's. It has been open since November 2013, and now there's a second location at Glendale's the Americana at Brand and a third in South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa. Sugarfina showcases both local and international novelty candies. You can build your own bento boxes filled with candy. Or you can buy Kyoto Blossoms from Japan, confetti dolci from Italy and handmade, hand-painted chocolate typewriters made by a local chocolatier. 9495 S. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills, (855) 784-2734, and two other locations,

Sweet — It helps to have a kid with you when you navigate this huge candy shop in the Hollywood & Highland complex on Hollywood Boulevard: for morale, for inspiration and because it can be overwhelming if you're not 13. There's a lot here: a giant portrait of Eminem made out of M&M's; a Chocolate Lab (yes, there are pictures of Labradors) where you can build your own chocolate bars and watch them being made; a TV that loops that "I Love Lucy" candy episode; and all the displays of hard candies, chocolates, and lots and lots of merchandise. You'll need the sugar high. 6801 Hollywood Blvd., Suite 201, Los Angeles, (323) 462-3111,

Valerie Confections — Valerie Gordon and her partner, Stan Weightman Jr., started out with a toffee business, and they now have three shops selling chocolates, pastries, confections and even lunch. The epicenter of the business is in Westlake on 1st Street, in a cute 4,000-square-foot shop, chocolate factory and bakery. There Gordon and her staff have, among other things, five chocolate dipping stations, where they make their chocolate candies, all blended from their unique mixture of Valrhona, Guittard and Noel chocolates. For the holiday, they make special boxes filled with chocolates shaped like hearts, of course, but also roses. In the shop, there are also cookies, truffles, jams and chocolate bars, as well as Gordon's famous rose petal petits fours. 3360 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, (213) 739-8149, and two other locations,

Beause taking pictures of chocolate is almost as much fun as eating it, on Instagram @ascattergood.