Are your Facebook friends as crazy about pumpkin spice lattes as mine are? Just like how I find out who got killed on last night’s episode of Game of Thrones, I know fall is here when my Facebook feed gets filled with excitement over pumpkin flavored drinks. While I’m all about pumpkin flavored beverages, I get MUCH more excited about winter and it’s seasonal drink—hot chocolate.
Since I’m not a big coffee or tea drinker, hot chocolate has always been there for me when I wanted to sip something warm and cozy up with during cold months. As soon as November was drawing to a close, I started doing many a Google search looking for the best hot chocolate in the city. Hey, it’s the same deal with Christmas carols; I can at least respect waiting until after Thanksgiving to relish in winter. City Bakery was always the one place that came up on every list I found. And if you needed further proof, their website has a quote from New York Magazine, saying “…what Katz’s is to pastrami…City Bakery is to hot chocolate.”
One day before doing some holiday shopping at the Union Square Holiday Market, some friends of mine and I decided to try this famous hot chocolate. First off, let me tell you that this place was nuts. I don’t know if everyone was just starting their hot chocolate craze like I was or because it’s always like that, but the place was packed and full of commotion. I have a feeling it’s the latter.
There are two floors, with the second floor being extra seating. The first floor has some tables and booths, with a big counter/service area in the middle, and some other service counters in the back. If you’re wondering why I’m being so vague, it’s because I don’t know what those counters in the back were for so I can’t tell you much more. I think you could get other food there? But maybe waiters also come to your table? Super helpful I know…
My lack of knowledge is partly due to the fact that I hopped right into one of the two long lines forming on either side of the main counter basically as soon as I walked into the restaurant. When I made it to the end of the line to the cashier, I told her that I wanted a hot chocolate and a marshmallow (you have to order the giant homemade marshmallow separately). She gave me a puzzled look and asked if I had already placed my order. Uh…no, because I thought I just did? She said it was no problem and ended up placing the order for me. I guessed from that exchange that you’re supposed to order earlier in the line and then just pay at the end, which I totally missed in all the hustle and bustle. Full disclosure, the hot chocolate cost $5 and adding the marshmallow meant adding $2 more.
After paying, you wait at the end of the counter where they’ll shout out orders for pick-up. Well, if everyone else is also ordering a hot chocolate then it kind of becomes a free for all where you just grab one off the tray when they drop them off. I noticed that a lot of people were ordering something called a hot chocolate shot, which I thought was a little odd since why would you want such a small amount?
Well, I knew the answer as I took my first sip. City Bakery’s hot chocolate is EXTREMELY rich and very sweet. It’s super thick, almost like you’re drinking straight-up melted chocolate. One of my friends was only able to drink half of hers, and I definitely nursed mine for a while because this is not the kind of thing you can just gulp down. I completely understand why someone would want to enjoy it in a much smaller amount, i.e. the hot chocolate shot, which I will definitely opt for instead if I go back to get some. And the homemade marshmallows? Giant and delicious. They definitely have a homemade taste and texture to them, unlike the almost plastic-y taste and feel of store-bought marshmallows.
In the end, I say that City Bakery hot chocolate is not for the faint of heart. I wouldn’t be able to drink it every time I was craving some hot chocolate, but it’s definitely an experience all dessert and sweet lovers should try at least once, especially if you’re a fan of sipping chocolate.
Oh, and every February they have a hot chocolate festival which just means that there’s a different flavor of hot chocolate each day. Espresso, lemon, cinnamon, pistachio, caramel, bourbon…all seem great. But the one that stood out to me? “Sunken treasure.” What could that be??
Hot chocolate with homemade marshmallow
3 W 18th St.
New york, NY 10011