Loco for cocoa

CookingStarbucks Corp.Lifestyle and LeisureEducationNorthwestern UniversityThe Hershey Co.

A good cup of hot chocolate is the culinary equivalent of a goose-down duvet. Whole milk, gently warmed; obscenely large spoonfuls of ground chocolate or rich, dark syrup; a lickable dollop of real whipped cream. Make that full-fat, thank you very much.

In some circles, cocoa is considered a kiddie drink. But there are places around town that treat the creamy elixir with the respect it deserves.

Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop, 830 N. Michigan Ave, 312-337-9330. Around the turn of the century, Ghirardelli developed the process that separates cocoa powder from cocoa butter. Hot-chocolate sippers have been grateful ever since. At this swank soda fountain just off the magnificent mile, you can top your historically significant glass of cocoa with whipped cream, marshmallows or, if you're really feeling daring, both. $2.50.

Medici on 57th, 1327 E. 57th St., 773-667-7394. This Hyde Park burger-and-pizza joint also plays host to an international hot chocolate summit. On Medici's menu are three exotic cocoas: San Francisco Ghirardelli, flavored with the famously rich ground chocolate; Mexicano, for which Medici imports cinnamon-tinged chocolate from south of the border; and the strictly-for-grown-ups Hollandaise, a cocktail of milk and dark, Dutch bittersweet chocolate. $2.

Margie's Candies, 1960 N. Western Ave., 773-384-1035. Margie's is an old-fashioned soda fountain. Even more retro is the incredible abundance of its hot chocolate. You're given four wafer cookies, a four-cup pot of cocoa, a dish of fresh whipped cream and a coffee cup. Then you're left to your own giddy devices. Nostalgia alone might make Margie's worth a visit. A bonus -- the cocoa is made from the shop's own made-on-the-premises chocolate syrup. $1.95.

Starbucks, 444 N. Michigan Ave., 312-832-9851, and numerous other locations throughout the city and suburbs. Coffee may be the bread and butter of these ubiquitous McCafes, but they also whip up sinful versions of cocoa to go. Starbucks makes its hot chocolate with its own distinctive chocolate syrup and steamed milk, including soy milk. Flavored syrups, from caramel to hazelnut to Irish cream, can be added. $2-$3.

Caribou Coffee, 423 N. Harlem Ave., Oak Park, 708-358-1212, and other area locations. Caribou's cocoas are candy-sweet and fun to sip in the chain's snug, faux-Alaskan dens. Made with Ghirardelli chocolate and your choice of milk (yes, they have soy, too), the flavors are milk chocolate, white chocolate and a spicy blend of chocolate, cinnamon and amaretto. $1.75-$2.30.

A Taste of Heaven, 1701 W. Foster Ave., Andersonville, 773-989-0151. This homey Andersonville bakery feels like Grandma's '50s-era kitchen, complete with Betty Crocker-style sweets, quilt-bedecked yellow walls and blue checkerboard linoleum. Naturally, the hot chocolate is prepared with lots of TLC (and that irresistible Ghirardelli chocolate). $2.75-$3.25.

Cafe Mozart, 600 Davis St., Evanston, 847-492-8056. This European-style pastry and ice cream joint is a haven to Northwestern University students and grown-ups who appreciate the finer things -- among them, a primo hot chocolate. The cafe brews its cocoa with its own mocha mix of ground chocolate and sugar. $1.75-$2.

Seattle's Best, 42 E. Chicago Ave., 312-337-0885, and five other area locations. The other Seattle-based coffee company uses bittersweet chocolate syrup to make its cocoa. After the whipped cream is added, in goes a hunk of dark chocolate. $2.10-$2.95.

Pick Me Up Cafe, 3408 N. Clark St., 773-248-6613. Don't underestimate the power of a classic ingredient: Hershey's syrup is the foundation of the rich cocoa at this cozy spot. Another perk: You can order it any time of the day or night during the weekend. Pick Me Up stays open continuously from 5 p.m. Friday until 3 a.m. Monday. $1.75-$2.25.

Savories, 1700 N. Wells St., 312-951-7638. Regulars add a dash of cinnamon to the mugs of hot chocolate made with Ghirardelli syrup. $1.75-$1.95.

Lenhard is a Chicago freelance writer.

Published on Dec. 1, 1999

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