2022’s Best Cities for Chocolate Lovers

Woman smiling while enjoying a plate full of chocolate treats.

Chocolate is wonderful on its own, but this luxurious treat also has the superpower to enhance the flavor of other foods like strawberries, bacon, pretzels, and coffee.

But where are the best cities to give in to your chocolate cravings? 

Lawn Love ranked 190 of the biggest U.S. cities to determine the Best Cities for Chocolate Lovers. 

We looked for cities with abundant chocolate factories and high-quality shops selling chocolate, including chocolatiers, dessert shops, and patisseries. We also considered chocolate-themed entertainment like museums, tours, theme parks, and events.

Melt into International Chocolate Day on Sept. 13 with our city rankings and analysis below.

In this article

City rankings 

See how each city fared in our ranking:

Infographic showing the Best Cities for Chocolate Lovers, a ranking based on number and quality of chocolate shops, chocolate manufacturers, chocolate-themed entertainment, and more
Note: For presentation purposes, not all ties for some metrics are displayed in the above infographic.

The meltdown: Key insights

Big-city bonbons

Large cities offer plenty of spots for residents (and tourists alike) to find quality sweets.

New York takes the crown of the chocolate empire at No. 1 overall and in the Access category. The city is swimming in chocolate delicacies, being home to over 100 chocolate shops and the most chocolate manufacturers in the country. NYC also has hundreds more coffee shops and bakeries than any other city, so you don’t need to walk far for a chocolatey surprise. 

Las Vegas, at No. 3, is its own Chocolate Sin City, far outnumbering the competition in dessert shops, candy shops, and ice cream shops. Chicago (No. 7) follows closely behind, with the second-highest number of chocolate stores and bakeries. 

Meanwhile, smaller cities like Sioux Falls, South Dakota (No. 190), Columbus, Georgia (No. 189), and Mesquite, Texas (No. 188) gave a bittersweet performance overall, with scarce options for their small-town chocolate lovers.

Local tips:

  • New York: Find the Big Apple’s most treasured handmade chocolate and cookies at Jacques Torres Chocolate. Jacques Torres (aka Mr. Chocolate) is an award-winning pastry chef and chocolatier and one of the hosts of “Nailed It!” on Netflix. 
  • Chicago: Vosges Haut Chocolate specializes in truffles and bars, selling dairy- and gluten-free options, and featuring exotic flavors like turmeric ginger, cheddar apple, and banana coconut. 
  • Las Vegas: The home to Ethel M Chocolates also has M&M’s and Hershey’s stores on opposite sides of Las Vegas Boulevard, and there’s a Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop at the LINQ. Just think: Walking along the Strip will help you burn off that sugar rush.

Willy Wonka’s West

While California is better known for its health-food trends, the Golden State has a golden ticket in Access to delicious chocolate. 

Indulgent San Francisco (No. 2) is home to industry icon Ghirardelli, in addition to a number of smaller artisans and manufacturers. Head down the coast to SoCal cities Los Angeles (No. 5) and San Diego (No. 9), where you’ll find plenty of patisseries, candy stores, and dessert shops to satisfy your cocoa-flavored cravings. 

On the northern end of the West Coast, cities like Seattle (No. 6) and Portland (No. 14) also impress with many high-quality chocolate shops and bakeries, coffee shops, and dessert shops.

Local tips:

  • San Francisco: For top-notch taste, Dandelion Chocolate focuses on small-batch bean-to-bar production. This company strives to highlight the unique flavor coming from each region’s cocoa beans by using only two ingredients, cocoa beans and sugar. 
  • Los Angeles: Letterpress Chocolate grew out of a small apartment into one of LA’s beloved stops for craft chocolate. They specialize in dark chocolate but also offer white chocolate, flavored bars, and sugar-free chocolate. 
  • Seattle: Located in historic Pike Place Market, Indi Chocolate is a great spot to grab a chocolate treat or learn how to make it yourself in one of their chocolate-making classes. You can also find unique gifts like chocolate soap and lotion.

Charming confections

We can’t talk about the Best Cities for Chocolate Lovers without mentioning The Sweetest Place on Earth: Hershey, Pennsylvania (No. 4). 

Founded by the nation’s most familiar chocolate company, Hershey’s, this town is best known for its chocolatey genesis. Hershey might not have a variety of tasty chocolate shops to choose from, but it’s the perfect place to go if you’re looking for the ultimate chocolate-based entertainment. 

If you’re just searching for a good bite of chocolate, you might unexpectedly find it in small cities, such as Des Moines, Iowa (No. 19), Pomona, California (No. 26), and Garden Grove, California (No. 16). Des Moines earns the No. 1 spot in Establishment Quality, with the two Cali suburbs falling closely behind.

Local tips:

  • Des Moines: Buy candy by the pound, find chocolate-covered treats, and customize a handcrafted chocolate bar with your business’ logo at Beaverdale Confections.
  • Pomona: Grab a chocolate concha at Ponce’s Bakery, Pomona’s favorite panaderia selling authentic Mexican cakes and sweet bread.

Expert take

You might consider yourself a chocolate connoisseur, but there’s always something new to learn about chocolate in a sweet-toothed world. We turned to some chocolate specialists to tell us more about the industry and the benefits of indulging in our favorite confection. 

  1. What is one recent trend in the world of chocolate?
  1. What is the most delicious – but unexpected – chocolate combo that chocolate lovers should try? 
  1. What are the three biggest differences between American and European chocolate?
  1. Aside from increasing happiness, what is one benefit of consuming chocolate? 
  1. What is the best way to ensure the chocolate that you’re buying is ethically made?

Ask The Experts

Slavko Komarnytsky, PhD
Associate Professor, Pharmacogenomics
Justin Fry
Executive Chocolatier, Owner
Slavko Komarnytsky, PhD
Associate Professor, Pharmacogenomics
North Carolina State University, Plants for Human Health Institute

What is one recent trend in the world of chocolate?

Expect the dark chocolate segment to diversify into the areas beyond the basic support of emotional and mental health. Renewed consumer interest in plant-based diets and ethical standards drives the demand for novel vegan, gluten-free, and low-sugar chocolates.

While sourcing and sustainability of cocoa crops remain a major challenge for the industry, expect additional segmentation in the “value for money” attribute as premium flavors and textures become less available for an average consumer.

Finally, expect nut-based milks to be incorporated into a traditional milk chocolate segment in the next few years.

What is the most delicious – but unexpected – chocolate combo that chocolate lovers should try?

Chocolate has come a long way from a traditional bitter drink developed from fermented cocoa beans, chili peppers, and water in Mesoamerica as early as 1500 BC. Pots and vessels of the Olmec, Maya, and Aztec cultures still contain traces of theobromine (a marker compound for cocoa) and capsaicin (chili) that speak of the very first popular flavor of chocolate products.

This combination became a part of the exciting research project that we continue to develop in collaboration between NC State University and NC Art Museum. Chocolate shortages during the Napoleonic wars resulted in counterfeit chocolate manufacturing using hazelnuts to stretch the limited cocoa supply and inadvertently creating another popular chocolate flavor.

For those of you who dare, I have a future unexpected yet awesome flavor: parmesan. For the extreme, try a piece of dark chocolate with a slice of salo, a traditional Ukrainian salt-cured pork fatback.

What are the three biggest differences between American and European chocolate?

  1. American and European chocolates taste different for the same reason that many other foods do: sugar. American palates demand sweeter-tasting foods, and the chocolate industry delivers.
  2. There are also more subtle differences in flavors that originate from sourcing contrasting cocoa varieties (criollo versus forastero).
  3. Changes in the fermentation process (butyric acid derived from milk fats lipolysis is not appreciated by Europeans).

Aside from increasing happiness, what is one benefit of consuming chocolate?

We often forget that both milk and dark chocolate contain caffeine, about 6 and 12 mg per ounce, and about 100 and 150 mg of theobromine. For this reason, chocolate provides a moderate increase in alertness without a coffee-related caffeine crash.

Cocoa is also rich in flavanols that improve vascular perfusion, in other words, the delivery of blood to the different tissues of the body.

What is the best way to ensure the chocolate that you’re buying is ethically made?

Cocoa resources are limited, and for this reason, most chocolate producers have long-term relationships with cocoa growers and manufacturers of raw ingredients that are tightly guarded and maintained.

Don’t expect this to change overnight, but look for industry leaders who drive transparency, responsible labor practices, and the sustainable sourcing of cocoa. Read the labels and websites. Looking for a fair trade label or full transparency on the production process is the best we can do at the moment.

Justin Fry
Executive Chocolatier, Owner
JF Chocolat

What is one recent trend in the world of chocolate?

I would have to say molded bonbons would be the most recent trend. Although it’s something that has been happening for a while, it has really exploded with social media videos and chefs posting “how to” videos.

They are small single to two bite-sized pieces of chocolate typically filled with a flavored ganache or chocolate filling. They are also colored with cocoa butter using many varieties of techniques, most of which are being shown on Instagram or TikTok.

I feel like those videos have also caused an increase in people wanting to start their own business after practicing along and learning from a lot of famous chefs.

We can’t forget the number of professional chefs making a shift from the corporate world to owning their own businesses, which helps in the growth of video content online.

What is the most delicious – but unexpected – chocolate combo that chocolate lovers should try?

It’s fun to see the trends of flavor combinations change from one chocolatier to another every year, and with the increase in chocolate businesses, everyone is trying to stand out among one another.

I see matcha raspberry being used a lot, which I think is a great combination, and Asian-inspired flavor combos and spices, I see a lot as well. It’s hard to pinpoint one flavor combo that is trending, given how many people are making chocolate.

I would recommend chocolate lovers try the bean-to-bar shops that are incorporating some savory spices into their chocolates.

What are the three biggest differences between American and European chocolate?

1. The first thing that comes to mind is the quality of chocolate, sugar content, and presentation. I would say that the majority of Americans tend to go for something on the sweeter side and reach for something more affordable and friendly to what they grew up with, like our classic candy bars.

To keep those costs down, the quality of chocolate definitely suffers, as well as the ingredients. I have always been told by my mentors that Americans just like sweet things, especially when it comes to desserts or candies.

I was taught that American caramel is focused on not losing the sweetness to it versus Europeans who tend to like something a little darker, with more bitterness to it.

2. In Europe, you will find shops that do add color to the chocolates, but it will only be with very few items, normally with novelty items and not bonbon-type treats. They like to keep things natural and not hide the beautiful colors of the chocolate itself, therefore keeping the dark, light brown, and white chocolate colors.

3. Just recently, some countries have banned the use of titanium dioxide in competitions. These competitions set the trend of how desserts will evolve. In the U.S., it’s all about selling the product and making money, and colors attract attention, so a lot of color is used in just about everything that is being done.

Aside from increasing happiness, what is one benefit of consuming chocolate?

I am not in the medical field to say with 100% certainty that dark chocolate can contribute to a healthy heart, help keep blood sugar levels low, or help maintain healthy cholesterol levels.

I have seen a lot of the same finds, such as those to be consistent among medical experts or food scientists when talking about the benefits of dark chocolate. You always hear about how healthy a glass of red wine and some dark chocolate can be, but is it an urban legend?

I know it helps people through tough times –– maybe a bar of chocolate from an old shop that you grew up with will help you remember happy moments. I have that for myself –– a small chocolate shop in my dad’s hometown that we used to visit for Christmas. It was always so special to us and always brings back those great memories.

What is the best way to ensure the chocolate that you’re buying is ethically made?

This is a tough question to answer. Most companies now advertise everything on bags saying they meet all those requirements, be it vegan, sugar-free, whatever it is. But there is always a loophole in it, and even though 10% of the product meets the requirements, the rest of the ingredients don’t.

It would be a matter of researching where you are getting your chocolate from and where that company goes to get its beans. There is a long line of people and businesses in between, from growing to processing, and the bigger the corporate company, the more corners they may cut to make that sale.

A lot of the big gourmet chocolate companies are more conscious about where their ingredients are coming from and trying to make that change to help improve the lives of those farming that product. I don’t trust everything that is displayed on the bags; instead, do your research and look into the company that you are purchasing from.

Ask The Experts

Amanda N. Miller, CSC, CPC, WCSC
Assistant Professor, Culinary Arts/Baking & Pastry Arts Instructor
Amanda N. Miller, CSC, CPC, WCSC
Assistant Professor, Culinary Arts/Baking & Pastry Arts Instructor
Baker College, Culinary Institute of Michigan – Muskegon

What is one recent trend in the world of chocolate?

One recent trend that chocolatiers are putting emphasis on is the level of design and artistry that they use in their chocolate making. They are taking classic techniques and elevating them to take their chocolates to the next level.

What is the most delicious – but unexpected – chocolate combo that chocolate lovers should try?

Chocolate and cheese is a delicious but unexpected combo. Chocolatiers often use a good blue cheese, fromage blanc, parmesan, and/or a variety of other cheeses in their chocolate creations.

What are the three biggest differences between American and European chocolate?

Milk chocolate is America’s favorite eating chocolate, while Europeans prefer darker chocolate. European chocolate has a deeper, richer flavor, while American chocolate is on the sweeter side.

The flavor overall of American vs. European chocolate can be determined by the ingredients that are sourced to make the chocolate. For example, American chocolate makers tend to use powdered milk solids in chocolate making, while European chocolate maker uses real milk, which lends to a richer flavor.

Aside from increasing happiness, what is one benefit of consuming chocolate?

Chocolate does increase happiness, but I am not a doctor, so I can’t speak to any health benefits that chocolate may have.

I would say that chocolate is good for the soul, so technically, chocolate is my soulmate and probably one of the longest relationships I have been in. I once read that chocolate is cheaper than therapy, so that’s a benefit. I just know that chocolate has always been there for me.

What is the best way to ensure the chocolate that you’re buying is ethically made?

The best way to ensure the chocolate you are buying is ethically made is to research the chocolate company. Many companies are becoming more and more transparent about where they source their chocolate from.

Socially responsible companies will go the extra mile to ensure that consumers are in the know because they want them to know that their chocolate was ethically sourced. They want their consumers to feel good about the product that they are purchasing.

Another quick way to know if your chocolate is ethically sourced is to look for the FAIRTRADE symbol on the packaging. Ethically sourced chocolate will cost consumers a little more money, but that extra cost is going back to the farmers so they can earn a living wage.

Ask The Experts

Tim Brown C.H.E.
Senior Instructor
Tim Brown C.H.E.
Senior Instructor
Johnson & Wales University, International Baking & Pastry Institute, College of Food Innovation & Technology

What is one recent trend in the world of chocolate?

Not so much a trend, but we are seeing more and more people making good quality chocolate than before –– just a simple online search brings up many choices to buy good chocolate. For trends, I think we are seeing more complex flavors; chocolatiers are putting two or even three flavors into one piece.

What is the most delicious – but unexpected – chocolate combo that chocolate lovers should try?

I am seeing more and more fresh herbs used in flavoring. One of my favorites is lemon verbena. It has plenty of freshness and a good amount of soft lemon flavor. I also think people should try flavors that have dark chocolate and chili in them. Chocolate was first consumed as a drink with chili in it by the Mayans, so that’s a throwback to the way it used to be.

What are the three biggest differences between American and European chocolate?

Cocoa butter. The amount of cocoa butter in chocolate made in the U.S.is generally lower than in Europe. Cocoa butter is what helps with providing a smooth and easy melting mouth feel.

Aside from increasing happiness, what is one benefit of consuming chocolate?

Some data and research suggest that there are health benefits to eating chocolate, including anti-oxidants. A higher percentage of chocolate is better, but of course, do everything in moderation.

What is the best way to ensure the chocolate that you’re buying is ethically made?

If ethically produced chocolate is important to you, then be sure to do some research before buying. Some companies are part of fair trade organizations, and others are not, but follow fair trade practices.

For me, the best way is to talk to someone in the shop you are buying from to find out what they may do to ensure ethically sourced chocolate.

Behind the ranking

For each of the 200 biggest U.S. cities, we gathered publicly available data on the factors listed in the table below. We replaced the smallest city in our sample with Hershey, Pennsylvania, considering it is a popular tourist destination for chocolate lovers. 

We then grouped the factors into three categories: Access, Establishment Quality, and Entertainment.

Next, we calculated weighted scores for each city in each category. 

Finally, we averaged the scores for each metro across all categories. We eliminated 10 cities lacking sufficient data in a single category, resulting in a total sample size of 190 cities.

The city that earned the highest average score was ranked “Best” (No. 1), while the city with the lowest was ranked “Worst” (No. 190). (Note: The “Worst” among individual factors may not be No. 190 due to ties.)


Chocolate Affairs Magazine, Factory Tours USA, Kompass, TripAdvisor, Wikipedia, and Yelp

Final thoughts: From Xocolatl to chocolate

Chocolate has been around for ages. 

Originally, Mesoamerican civilizations used fruit from the cacao bush for making an alcoholic drink. Chocolate was even a popular drink in colonial America (but it’s not like the hot cocoa we enjoy today). 

Today, creative artisans find ways to bring new life to this age-old food, such as the chocolate sculptures made by famed pastry chef Amaury Guichon, from Netflix’s “School of Chocolate.” 

If you’re a chocolate connoisseur, make sure to add these iconic chocolate cities to your bucket list: 

  • Detroit, Michigan: If chocolate revs your engine, check out Bon Bon Bon in Motor City. This chocolate shop delights in experimenting with unique bonbon flavors, such as Hot Cheeto and Black Truffle. 
  • Kansas City, Missouri: The Heart of America is the hometown of both Russell Stover Candies and Christopher Elbow Chocolates. Founder Christopher Elbow went from working in country clubs to esteemed kitchens across the country. He now sells handcrafted chocolate bars, bonbons, toffee, and other sweets.
  • Orlando, Florida: Disney might have a rival for the title of “Happiest Place on Earth” — the World of Chocolate Museum and Cafe. Tour through the history of chocolate, and admire intricate chocolate sculptures before trying award-winning chocolate from around the globe. Afterward, pair your chocolate with coffee or wine in the museum cafe.
  • Portland, Oregon: Starting out in a home kitchen in 2010, Woodblock Chocolate is now one of Rose City’s most popular chocolate shops. Their bars feature hints of distinctive notes and flavors, like cherry, olive, lemon, and black pepper. Pair together their signature chocolate with wine in the Bons Amis tasting room. 
  • San Antonio, Texas: Texas loves food trucks, and Alamo City’s favorite confectionary began as one (aka a “chocolate trolley”). Now, Chocollazo has a brick-and-mortar location where they sell seasonal, fun-shaped chocolates and truffles, such as game controllers, Star Wars characters, and skulls.

Main photo credit: iStock

Sav Maive

Sav Maive is a writer and director based in San Antonio. Sav is a graduate from the University of Virginia and is a loving cat and plant mom.