There’s nothing better than a steaming cup of hot chocolate to help get you through Chicago's coldest days, but there’s something extra special about the gentle bite of cocoa that’s brewed with a little chile and spice. Maybe it’s the pepper, maybe it’s the south-of-the-border flare, or maybe it’s just that it makes you feel all warm and chocolatey inside—no matter how you slice it, a Mexican hot chocolate will quell your shivering. We picked five places you can go when you find yourself wandering the chilly streets in need of cocoa with a kick.
XOCO: Chocolate is a serious business at Rick Bayless’ casual dining establishment in River North. In keeping with hot chocolate’s South American roots, XOCO imports all of their cocoa beans from Tabasco, Mexico, and grinds them right there on site. Order the Aztec chocolate for a blend of chile, allspice and house-ground chocolate, and the experience is simple bean-to-cup bliss. Darker and somehow deeper than other chocolates on this list, a cup of this heavy brew will challenge your senses with a spectrum of complex flavors and textures.
Cafe Jumping Bean: Creamy, decadent and silky smooth, the tingle of the spices in the chocolate from this Pilsen mainstay blend so seamlessly that you’d swear it tastes like velvet feels. You might catch a twinkle of humor in the cashier’s eyes as she takes your order for a “tall Mexican,” or a short one. If you take it to go, you can take the opportunity to stroll past the beautiful murals and street art that decoarte one of Pilsen’s main thoroughfares.
Mindy’s Hot Chocolate: Served with a pair of gooey house-made marshmallows, this cup of chocolate is as friendly to your camera as it is to your tastebuds. You could choose to divide and conquer, consuming the perfectly toasted cubes of fluff directly from their skewers like some kind of fanciful camping trip. Or you could toss them into the cocoa itself, and bask in the thick texture that gathers at the top. No matter how you sip it, one cup of this decadent concoction will leave even the biggest sweet tooth satisfied.
Café Tola: If you’re craving a bit of a caffeinated kick to your hot cocoa, look no further than Café Tola on Southport. Located due west of Wrigley Field, this jaunty little joint serves up mouthwatering empanadas alongside their signature Spicy Mocha—a combination warm and hearty enough to fuel any winter commute. The mocha itself comes blended with a tongue-tingling trifecta of cayenne, cinnamon and chipotle, melding with chocolate and espresso to give your taste buds more than enough to think about.
Cafecito: This local chain in the Loop is known for its Cuban food and solid coffee, but it also serves spiced Mexican hot chocolate. You won’t find the hot drink on the menu, but you can order it with confidence. As with everything else at Cafecito, you get your money’s worth. It’s nothing fancy—just a powdered hot chocolate mix with some spices mixed in—but at the end of the day, you could do far worse than sipping a cup of warm cocoa surrounded by colorful back-issues of Bohemia and Carteles magazines.
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