New York is this fantastic mix of all sorts of things, things that are not usually seen together, all blended up together. A woman wearing designer clothes walking down a street covered in garbage and graffiti. A trendy new restaurant located right next to an old soup kitchen. Busy streets filled with angry taxis right next to surprisingly large and numerous park spaces filled with toddlers playing, young guys playing basket ball, and grandparents chatting on park benches. You quickly pass from a street where the apartments have doormen and they are all hosing down the street and sprucing up the flower pots to one with a woman who seems to have forgotten to put on a shirt this morning and a man smoking something that doesn’t smell completely legal. And it changes, with every block, with every store front. No one is fussed by it and the more you stop and look (which isn’t easy in NYC as everything and everyone goes fast and in every which way), you see that there are even more details, endless amounts of interesting details, the finishing on the windows up top the building, an interesting sign, is that man wearing a black suit with the briefcase wearing pink platform shoes?
And then there is Cocoa Bar. How would you imagine a place called Cocoa Bar? I’d imagine a little chocolate shop, designed with pastel colours, a cheerful young woman at the counter wearing a flowery dress, little gold rimed mugs filled with chocolate goodness. Cocoa Bar wasn’t that at all, or almost wasn’t at all. Cocoa Bar is exactly like the area it is based in, half grungy/dirty/what did I get myself into and half sophisticated/clean/trendy.
I’m completely intrigued by Cocoa Bar. You walk down a street where you would think you would be unlikely to find a good hot chocolate, and if it weren’t for the chalkboard sign outside that said Cocoa Bar and the sense that I knew it had a good hot chocolate, I may not, probably would not have entered. If feels like a bit of a student bar inside (and it was coincidently filled with students on laptops), the tables and chairs are a little rough around the edges and the bench I chose to sit on was loosely covered in a dirty, red velvet fabric and even more well used pillows that felt out of place. But from my little seat you could see the bar area, walls lined with wine bottles, good wine, as well as an impressive selection of beers. By night this becomes a wine bar while it is a café by day.
And both day and night they offer chocolate creations, again, completely unexpected. Real chocolate creations, made by someone who has a talent and passion for chocolate. A display case shows off an array of chocolate creations including home made marshmallows. The menu above the bar suggests a range of chocolate infused cocktails and the promise that you can have your hot chocolate blended with any alcohol of your choice (you just have to ask for recommendations). Sounds a bit like having your chocolate cake and eating it too.
The man working the night I went was wearing an orange baseball cap, plaid short sleeve shirt and had a perfect beard. Before creating my hot chocolate, he gave me a handful of options including Almond Joy hot chocolate (his favorite) and funky monkey hot chocolate (my choice). After having spent 30 minutes waiting for a subway to arrive to bring me here I needed something a bit funky…good funky…and this was definitely good funky. Amazingly good funky. The cup it was presented in was as rough around the edges as my side of the bar, but the insides were rich and creamy with a very slight hint of banana. A gorgeous hot chocolate that was completely unexpected here (again, I think the bar should be called Unexpected…) and I wonder how many people that come here even realize the hot chocolate is this good.
Verdict: It may not be pretty, but Cocoa Bar makes a mean hot chocolate. Worth a quick detour. My only wish is that they added one of their home made marshmallows to the mix. Hmmm (Price: $5) Cocoa Bar, 21 Clinton St, Manhattan, NY, USA