What better way to chocolate yourself than with Belgian sweets prepared by a French woman? The Benelux region where France meets Belgium might be the most culinary-advanced place on earth, and now Chicagoans shopping in the Mag Mile
can enjoy a bite of that sophistication.
France native Marie Douailly recently opened her second Leonidas Chocolaterie location in the Chicago area — she's had an outlet store in Wilmette, on the north shore, since 2005. Leonidas near Water Tower Place boasts the same concept, featuring chocolate candies and truffles, a coffee bar, gelato, Belgian waffles, and croissants baked at a local patisserie. But the design of this store is more edgy, more urban hip, whereas the Wilmette outlet reminds one of old-world Europe.
Belgium-based Leonidas is a big name in the chocolate sphere and has been around for almost a century. The brand now has 1,600 stores around the world, including outlets on the East and West coast, along with Marie's two Chicago locations. Here's the delightful irony: Leonidas wasn't started by a Belgian, but by a Greek-American ... from Chicago, who fell for the local Brussels cuisine, met his wife, and started his own pastry business. So Marie's store has brought the story full circle — not to mention the fact that she met her current husband, a Finn, 16 years ago while on a pub crawl in the neighborhood.
Marie's most popular items include the white chocolate truffle, the vanilla latte, crepes and gelatos. She plans to open a terrace when the weather heats up, stay open later on the weekends, and perhaps open new Leonidas locations in Naperville or Oak Brook, and one in Milwaukee, in the near future.
Centerstage Reviewer: Jacob Wheeler