Candyality's truffles are no trifling matter.
If "Willy Wonka's" Charlie Bucket had lived in Chicago, he wouldn't have been able to visit his local chocolate factory even with a golden ticket; the famed Blommer Chocolate Company doesn't give tours of its River North facility. But he could still get his hands on all the chocolate he desired, thanks to a world of local confectioneries right at his fingertips. These sweet boutiques would surely have been among his favorites—and they should be on your list for the sugar-crazed holiday season.
Windy City Sweets
Windy City Sweets might not compete in size with Willy Wonka's factory, but the small candy shop has more to offer than most of its larger local competitors. Before getting sidetracked by the candy-lined walls and homemade fudge, Charlie would've bolted straight to the chocolate-stacked cases in the back. And then he would've had a near meltdown just looking at the stuff. That said, Windy City Sweets is full of challenges. The first: choosing between so many chocolate-filled and -dipped options. The second: not eating it all in one sitting.
Sometimes it's not what's beneath the tree that matters, but the sweet stuff dangling from its branches. bon bon has found a way to make those branches pop with its gigantic chocolate ornaments- a sugar-fueled sentiment Wonka himself would've surely appreciated, or perhaps tried to claim as his own. Aside from their tiny tinfoil tops, the entire balls are completely edible, but the hand-painted shells make these shiny treats too pretty to crack at first glance. Fortunately, bon bon's got a full stock of bite-size chocolates (ranging from chili-infused pyramids and Saigon cinnamon Buddhas to naughty Kama Sutra kits and rose-petal discs) to sate your sweet tooth until it's time to chuck the tree.
Ethel's Chocolate Lounge (Lincoln Park)
Charlie probably would've balked at the pastel pinks and vibrant orange hues in this female-focused shop, but the place would've certainly pleased Veruca Salt. One thing is certain, Violet would have fallen hard for Ethel's Blueberry Bliss dark chocolate with its creamy center and glitzy purple finish. Other interesting concoctions include Ethel's dark honey truffle, the PB&J milk chocolate and the "Say Cheesecake" white chocolate. The posh Lincoln Park spot also sells an assortment of chocolate bars, gift sets and full-service fondue. You'll even find an entire beverage menu, complete with fruit smoothies and lattes; each coffee-based concoction comes with two complimentary chocolates of your choice.
Vosges Haut-Chocolat (Lincoln Park)
You can shop for everyone on your list at Vosges Haut-Chocolat.
In terms of decor, this one truly takes the cake-or the truffle, if you will. The shop itself, decked out in lush plums and rich mahoganies, would've made Wonka's chocolate-lovin' knees weak. One bite of Vosges' exotic Rooster truffle and the fictitious chocolatier surely would've collapsed in ecstasy. The sweet and savory treat is part of Vosges' Italian collection, but can also be purchased on its own for a fraction of the price. Before heading out, park it at the rustic communal table and enjoy your couture truffles among fellow chocolate-junkies.
According to Candyality owner Terese McDonald, "Willy Wonka" makes the majority of chocolates for her Southport shop. Well, at least that's the moniker he earned for his handcrafted Rocky Road clusters, milk- and white chocolate-covered pretzels and giant peanut butter cups. But ask for the confectioner's real name and McDonald's lips are sealed. You won't care who's making the goods, though, after sinking your teeth into one of these gourmet selections. Candyality is constantly adding new chocolate-inspired treats to its regular line and most recently made room for chocolate-covered gummy bears.
Belgian Chocolatier Piron
It wouldn't be a shock to discover Oompa-Loompas behind the scenes at this Evanston chocolate boutique. How else would you explain the glistening cases lined end-to-end with perfectly molded Belgium chocolates? Try as you might, but you won't find any strange little green-haired men here. Just a couple of skilled chocolatiers who spend their days crafting intricate chocolates like the top-selling Grand Marnier with whipped buttercream, raspberry cream-filled animals and hazelnut praline seashells.