Hot or Not? Best Hot Chocolate Spots in Our Area

Mary Frances Dempsey, Staff Reporter

What are the best hot cocoa spots in Arlington and DC? Many hot chocolate cafes are simply underwhelming, they miss flavor with their watery recipe or only provide a cold and dull atmosphere devoid of any cheer. Hoping to find exceptions, I went to several cafes searching for the best hot chocolate around. After heavy consideration, I’ve picked six of my favorites based on taste, presentation, ambiance of the cafe and other crucial factors that make a great hot cocoa spot.

Tatte Bakery and Cafe Arlington

This bakery looks like it comes straight out of a movie. Large floor-to-ceiling windows–great for watching the snow out of–line several walls. Even more windows in the central area of the shop give customers a glance into their large industrial kitchen, where bakers are hard at work making fresh breads, muffins and their famous cheesecakes. Their modern black-and-white French interior contrasts with the warmth of their elegant comfort foods, like the ham-and-cheese breakfast croissant. Their hot chocolate was thick and rich; it completely coated my mouth with chocolate. I will definitely be coming back here. 

Bread and Chocolate DC

If you are looking for a spot with the most holiday spirit possible, stop by Bread and Chocolate DC. This Parisian cafe is surrounded by joy with carolers on every corner, a Santa standing outside all the toy shops and Elsa singing at the local charity event. Even the fire station has fairy lights strung across the whole building and fake snow blowing from their roof. The hot chocolate spot itself is quite cheery as well, with Frank Sinatra holiday playlists on loop and ornaments hanging from their oak chairs. Families walk in and out, stopping for lunch after a day of Christmas shopping. The hot cocoa was creamy and created with their house-made chocolate, making the flavors strong. Though the inside of the shop was nice, I recommend grabbing your drink and strolling down the many blocks full of holiday cheer.  

Un Je Ne Sais Quoi DC

Un Je Ne Sais Quoi is a small but mighty dessert shop. There is a blue, velvety theme to the place accompanied by dim and warm lighting with the occasional stone deer head plaque on the wall. It reminds me of a unique, stylish log cabin. Friends gather around small tables, taking little bites of their coffee cake as they wait for their tea. The presentation is adorable; they wrap their pastries in newspaper and trade plates for woven baskets. Their hot chocolate is very flavorful and sweet, with a good heap of whipped cream on top. Out of all the places I reviewed, this one is the most inviting to stay in for hours at a time. 

Starnut Gourmet McLean

The Starnut Gourmet Cafe is not only a cafe but an experience. Old jazzy Christmas music and laughs from strangers’ conversations fill the air. The staff treats you like family, and you feel at home in their warm environment. Their hot chocolate is similarly cozy, with a real chocolate taste from their house-made cocoa and chocolate drizzle added in. Starnut’s menu is a fusion of French, Italian and Greek cuisine, all prepared fresh for you in their small, homey kitchen. I have been going to Starnut for years, and I haven’t had a single bad food there. Matching the greatness of the eats and ambiance, the welcoming restaurant’s decorations have the holiday spirit in mind. Each wall is adorned with a garland, and the centered Christmas tree lights up everything around it. There are so many hidden nooks where you can sit, people-watch out of windows or just get comfortable and make conversation with the friendly customers around you.  

Ladurée DC

Located in Central Georgetown, this macaron shop has standout exterior and interior design. Chandeliers hang down from the ceiling, reflecting light on the walls adorned by pastel ribbons and wonderfully displayed pastries. The color scheme includes tiffany blue, white, mint green and the occasional pink. It is truly a gorgeous place to be, right out of Pinterest. But, even more amazing than its design is its hot chocolate: a thick, French blend. This is what I was looking for when this all began. It’s sweet, but not too sweet, and it is all presented in an elegant green cup with a stunning logo printed in the middle. Enjoy one of their many delicious signature macaron desserts with your drink, such as the Ispahan Ind, which is a raspberry macaron sandwich with fresh lychee. Ladurée wins first place for me. 

These shops have their differences, but whichever one you end up crashing in will be worthwhile. Each one brings a spirited and cozy atmosphere, with amazing hot chocolates to accompany it.