With Valentine’s Day around the corner, supermarkets and big box stores are overflowing with mass-produced candies and heart-themed gifts. There’s certainly no lack of quick and cheap shopping options for celebrating this holiday. However, picking something up at the grocery store could make that special someone feel like an afterthought instead of a priority.
Putting in a little extra effort and finding something unique can really make the day special. Lucky for you, San Diego has plenty of great local shops that offer handmade chocolates that blow those cellophane wrapped, heart-shaped boxes out of the water.
Whether you’re shopping for your sweetheart or your sweet tooth, nothing says quality quite like gourmet, locally-made chocolates and sweets. Why settle for those mediocre chocolate-covered cherries with the weird cream filling when you could enjoy real fresh fruit dipped in rich, recently made chocolate? The cost may be a few dollars more, but overall, you will get what you pay for.
We’ve taken the guessing out of the process by rounding up four of the most reliably wonderful chocolatiers and candy shops around San Diego.
Nibble Chocolate in Old Town
Location: 2754 Calhoun Street (map)
Hours: Seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
If you live near Old Town or frequent any number of local farmers markets, Nibble Chocolate can hook you up with some of the best chocolate in the city. You can also find them at the Pacific Beach Farmers Market on Tuesdays, the North Park Farmers Market on Thursdays, the Little Italy Farmers Market on Saturdays and both the Open Aire La Jolla Farmers Market and the Hillcrest Farmers Market on Sundays.
Unlike some candy makers, the team at Nibble Chocolate makes their candy from scratch, meaning they process the unrefined cocoa beans and go from there. The end result is a menu of chocolate bars and nibbles that contain primarily real cocoa, as well as sugar, and no additives. They offer a variety of chocolates, based on both the percentage of cocoa in the bars and the origin of the cacao used in their creation.
You can buy individual bars or a flight, with four different varieties of chocolate at different percentages of cocoa, including 72 percent, 77 percent and 85 percent, perfect for the dark chocolate lover in your life. Some of their incredible chocolates come gift-wrapped, ready to make an impression without any extra effort on your part.
Chocolate Haus in Pacific Beach
Location: 947 Turquoise Street (map)
Hours: Monday-Thursday: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Closed Sunday
Since April of 2004, Chocolat Haus has been making and selling chocolates and confections for fans in Pacific Beach and beyond. Owned and operated by a husband and wife team, Pete and Cindy Close, Chocolate Haus strives to provide excellent and reliable quality chocolates handcrafted from the best ingredients.
Some of the chocolates available year-round include Buckeyes, a dark chocolate shell filled with whipped peanut butter, Caramel Baileys, which are white chocolate ganache infused with caramel Bailey’s liqueur, a cinnamon bun truffle made from white chocolate fudge, brown sugar and fresh cinnamon, and a grasshopper, featuring crushed chocolate cookie and mint fudge covered in a dark chocolate shell.
They also have other traditional offerings, like milk chocolate, peanut butter fudge and raspberry truffles. If you’re more adventurous, the Spiced Chai Latte with a milk chocolate ganache infused with vanilla chai tea and coated in white chocolate might be the perfect treat. Otherwise, consider their Lavenberry, which is white ganache with fresh strawberries and locally sourced lavender from Carlsbad, dipped in dark chocolate.
Their confections include caramel turtles made from Texas pecans and dark or milk chocolate, as well as peanut brittle, almond brittle and coconut brittle. If you’re looking to cool down after fun on the beach, their selection of ice cream flavors will surely leave you refreshed and smiling.
Chi Chocolat at Liberty Station
Location: 2690 Historic Decatur Road (map)
Hours: Monday-Friday: 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday: 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Closed Sunday
If you’re looking for top-notch chocolates around Point Loma or Liberty Station, pay a visit to Chi Chocolat. In addition to an impressive menu of artisan chocolates, this little shop also sells coffee, tea and espresso drinks, as well as a simple breakfast and lunch menu.
If you’re stopping in for a meal, don’t forget to buy some candies before you head out. Although you likely won’t leave feeling hungry, you’ll be glad later in the day that you splurged and bought yourself some bon bons and fresh candies, options for which rotate daily.
Breakfast options include omelets, poached, fried or scrambled eggs, a cheese plate, oatmeal, granola, croissant sandwiches, fresh almond, chocolate, cinnamon or scone pastries and, of course, bacon, sausage and fresh fruit.
Their lunch menu includes several kinds of salads, from tropical to Caesar. You can add chicken, beef or shrimp to your salad for a modest upcharge. If you prefer something warm, consider one of their many paninis, such as their gruyere panini, coppa, panini or tomato mozzarella pesto panini. They even offer white and dark chocolate paninis, a decadent treat when you’re sipping a latte. For those who prefer ungrilled sandwiches, you can enjoy a ham and brie, turkey bacon, salmon or avocado sandwich.
The Elegant Truffle
Location: 1111 Scott Street (map)
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday: Noon to 5 p.m., Closed Monday
The Elegant Truffle is another option in Point Loma when you need freshly made chocolates. Owned and operated by Jennifer Marie Muratore, this shop features an ever-changing selection of fine truffles, candies, and creative espresso and coffee drinks. She makes the candies fresh daily, including homemade caramels made in the same copper pot that her grandmother once used.
As you might expect, there are several kinds of truffles at this shop, with flavors ranging from dark chocolate to espresso or even margarita. You can enjoy a single truffle for only $4 or take home a dozen for $48. Homemade caramels and marshmallows run $5 each.
While you’re here, treat yourself to some Oh My God cake, beloved among regulars and first time visitors alike. This homemade cake features a rich chocolate cake base made from chocolate cheesecake and an Oreo cookie crust, topped with chocolate ganache.
They also make up fresh coconut cake, a Wow Cake with four kinds of chocolate, espresso and butter, and angel food cake, as well as seasonal offerings. The menu often includes cookies, fudge brownies and almond bark. If you’d like a mid-afternoon pick-me-up, treat yourself to an Espresso Kiss, each of which has five whole espresso beans.