This chocolate café has been in business since November 2005. They sell a lot of chocolate bars up front (in sections labelled dark, milk, and surprises — such as chocolate with pepper), but they offer espresso and café service in the back — with seating among several weathered, painted wooden tables and chairs. There is an upstairs seating area as well.

The place smacks of a cocktail-party-conversation-fodder side project of some dot-com millionaire’s trophy wife/husband/partner: there’s little real chocolate merchandising, limited events, and little that distinguishes them from a chocolate retailer like Fog City News. But just so you know my biases, the general concept of a chocolate café doesn’t exactly work for me. There’s something hollow about walking up to buy a chocolate bar, sitting down at a wooden table to eat it, and packaging that as experience marketing. Fortunately, the espresso here is quite good and the place works more as a café than a chocolate one in specific.

Entering Bittersweet Chocolate bars on parade

Using a three-group La Marzocco Linea, they pull only double ristretto shots of Blue Bottle Coffee (you can feel the imprint of Blue Bottle’s James Freeman on this chain’s coffee supply, equipment, training, and offerings). The resulting shot is short, even for a doppio, and served with a good layer of spotted medium-to-dark-brown crema in wider-mouthed classic brown ACF cups.

While everything leading up to the final flavor gives you the impression of an excellent espresso, the resulting flavor is a little off; it has a bitter, root-like twang to its flavor. A cup like this should be capable of being much sweeter (or any sweetness for that matter), and any sweetness is lacking. (And yet I like my chocolate dark and bittersweet for that matter.) They also have a dedicated Astra for milk frothing.

Despite the unmet potential in the cups they serve, the imprint of Blue Bottle comes through — making this one of the better places for espresso in the city.

Read the review.

Bittersweet's La Marzocco The Bittersweet espresso