Heaven in a Mug

It’s hot chocolate season and I took on the deliciously arduous task of uncovering the best hot chocolate in the city. It’s been a tight race, but the results are finally in.

Chocolate Cafe in Grandview wins, hands down, no qualms about it. It’s the kind of hot chocolate you leave your lover for.

You can order it made with milk or dark chocolate and it comes in almost any flavor you can dream up–butterscotch, caramel, peanut butter, mint, cherry jubilee. Chocolate Cafe even offers frozen hot chocolate for the summer months and a chocolate martini, if you’re in the mood for something a bit stiffer.

This year, I was determined to find out what makes Chocolate Cafe’s hot chocolate so damn delicious. Because behind every exceptional recipe, there’s bound to be a good secret.

On a chilly Saturday morning, I visited the cafe. It was brightly decorated for Christmas, cozy and lit up. Couples and families filtered in. They browsed the case, overflowing with a variety of desserts including: ice cream, carrot cake, hand-rolled buckeyes, and hand-dipped strawberries. Patrons ordered lunch from the wide selection of sandwiches, salads, and soups on offer. The options were deliciously decadent.

Yet, I was a woman on a mission. I sat down with Chocolate Cafe’s owner, Lisa Boyle, and got to the heart of the matter: Just what exactly makes your hot chocolate so special?

Lisa laughed and said: “The secret is simplicity.”

At first, I thought Lisa was holding out on me. But the more I talked to her, the more I realized how significant her recipe was.

“It’s literally just Belgian chocolate and milk. The secret is that there’s no syrup, no powder. The difference is that this isn’t Swiss Miss. It’s real ingredients,” She said.

Lisa’s commitment to authenticity extends further than just the ingredients in her famous hot chocolate, though. Ultimately, Lisa believes in people. Part of her desire to open the cafe was to enable her to be a larger part of the neighborhood and do something meaningful.

“We love our customers and, after 9 years, we’ve seen kids grow up, we go to weddings, we grieve at obituaries. We’ve become part of the community,” She said.

Reciprocally, Lisa explained that she owes her success in part to the Columbus community that rallied behind her: “People gave us the benefit the doubt. They gave me a break when I first opened. The people who have supported us have been so decent. What we see here is that 90% of people are good people.”

Lisa hopes that her cafe can be a bit of a neighborhood oasis. She explained: “We always want to understand people here and give them a safe space. Here, we are in a unique position to make someone’s day. It’s a profound experience.”

While Lisa and I spoke, I sampled their latest seasonal flavor, Nutella, and it truly was daymaker– rich, creamy goodness with a hint of childhood nostalgia. And while I didn’t leave with any insider secrets, I did get a pretty reminder of the power of real ingredients, and a little faith in human decency.

Chocolate Café is located at 1855 Northwest Blvd. in Grandview.