Candy stores in San Francisco
Meg Ray’s fancy Hayes Valley candy shop lures tourists and locals alike with its Pepto-pink facade and whimsical window displays. The interior maintains the same charm, adorned with floral wallpaper and a colorful spectrum of candy jars behind the register. The prettily packaged treats are decidedly chic, including sweet and salty Dutch licorice, caramels, toffee, spiced gummies and rose Turkish delight, available gift-wrapped or by the pound. In addition to candy, the shop sells gift-able desserts like lavender shortbread cookies, cupcakes topped with fluffy Italian meringue, Scharffen-Berger cakes and an array of fluffy macarons—try the geranium flavor.
At this “bean to bar” chocolate factory and café, everything is crafted by hand in small batches. Watch the staff roast, winnow, grind, temper, mold and wrap their creations before you sample the results. Tours and talks are offered Wednesday through Saturday. Along with single-origin chocolate bars, the café offers a menu of thick-enough-to-stand-a-spoon-in drinking chocolates and mochas, plus desserts such as a decadent, dark-chocolate red velvet beet cake, nib-infused panna cotta and a PB&J cup that crushes Reese’s.
Chef Jean-Marc Gorce has garnered so many accolades (from the likes of the Food Network and The New York Times) for his rich, dreamy bite-sized creations, he could use an extra shop window just to post them all. Instead, he lets the truffles do the talking at his modest storefront in North Beach, turning out irresistible (and inexpensive) confections, from cocoa-dusted crème de framboise and Earl Grey to chili-tequila and vegan soy truffles. Any of them make the perfect partner for espresso-sipping and people-watching on the sidewalks of Little Italy.
Mary Mueller peddles sweet tooth provisions from her Castro shop. What it lacks in space, the store makes up for in character: the shelves are painted a sunny yellow and a candy mosaic adorns the wall. Mueller is liberal with samples, doling out gummies and chocolate-covered delicacies to kids and adults alike. The sweets are organized by type, spanning chocolates, gummies, fruit candies and caramels. (Don’t miss the cherry walnut caramels by Walnettos.) In particular, the spot is known as a discerning purveyor of Scandinavian licorice—sweet and salty—and craft chocolate makers like Woodblock and Maison Bouche.
Self-taught chocolatier Chuck Siegel has honed his craft over 30 years, developing a loyal following that has taken him from cult purveyor to household name. At his shop and factory in the lower Mission, you can view the production room, then sample and purchase Siegel’s ridiculously addictive signature treats: triple-chocolate almonds, salty-sweet cashew bars, fleur de sel caramels, and his latest seasonal and experimental creations, from gianduja blocks to caramel almond sticks.
Since 1994, this chocolate trove has been a San Francisco institution. Owners Jack Epstein and Marilyn Sitkoff source their sweet-smelling wares from across the globe, offering more than 900 types of chocolate from upwards of 20 countries. The assortment includes local craft chocolatiers like Dick Taylor, L’Amourette and Michael Mischer, as well as far-flung bars from Iceland, England, Lithuania, Hungary and—of course—Brooklyn. The bars are stacked on wooden shelves on either side of the narrow space; each includes a handwritten description. But don’t be shy: Like a sommelier of chocolate, Epstein can make detailed recommendations based on your taste preferences and budget. Chocolate Covered also makes a great gift: Epstein creates homemade cyanotype photo-print boxes.
Husband-wife owners Rosie O’Neil and Josh Resnick hatched the idea for this upscale candy chain on their third date—a screening of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. That Sugarfina is a candy boutique for grown-ups is apparent in the pristine white-and-Tiffany blue space. The chain stocks over 150 kinds of candy from the U.S., Greece, Germany, Italy, Sweden, France and beyond, all designed to be compiled into giftable bento boxes. The high-end delicacies include maple bourbon caramels, chocolate-covered almonds designed to look like martini olives, champagne and pale ale gummy bears, and marshmallows garnished with 24-karat gold. But there’s some whimsy to be found among the pricey confections, as well: Try the Fruity Loops, malt ball-like cereal balls covered in milk chocolate and a fruity candy shell. (Sugarfina has a second location at 1837 Union Street, open daily from 11am to 8pm.)
Surrounded by locavore restaurants, artisan butchers and bakers, craft beer and wine makers, this factory and small storefront occupies a prime spot in the blossoming SFMade haven of Dogpatch. Dark chocolate is topped with gray sea salt combinations, including signature tiles infused with such flavors as smoked almond and ghost chili, sesame toffee, and burnt caramel. Truffles, bonbons, bars, brittles and boxed chocolates round out the selection. It’s all good, but the popcorn toffee squares and sesame toffee bittersweet tiles are amazing.
Chocolatier Michael Recchiuti has been making single-origin chocolates from his Dogpatch production facility since 1997. The emphasis is on high-end, locally-sourced ingredients: The truffles are based in Valrhona and Guittard chocolate and infused with herbs from SF farmers markets. The flavors are designed to appeal to a discerning palate, from pumpkin butter and burnt caramel to sesame nougat. For boozy chocolate lovers, there’s even a whiskey pairing collection, which includes fleur de sel, kona coffee, and honeycomb truffles. (Pick up a bottle of whiskey at Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant across the hall.) Limited-edition batches are hand-painted with intricate designs like cyclists or Painted Ladies.
This is a candy store designed to stoke baby boomer nostalgia—cries of “remember these?!” ring out among the shelves. The walls are lined with old-fashioned candy jars filled with licorice, sours, chocolates and gummies, and displays are piled with sugary memories like candy buttons, Pixy Stix, Necco wafers, Big League Chew, Fun Dip, wax bottles and more. Owner Diane Campbell has a sweet spot for Swedish licorice—herring, bears, Scotties, coins and more—as well as oddball candies from the UK. This may be the only shop in the city where gummies shaped like chicken feet are in high demand.
The old-timey appearance—striped awning, vintage toys and Pez dispensers, red and white checkerboard tile—isn’t just cutesy window-dressing: Shaw’s is the oldest candy store in San Francisco. It was opened in 1931 by Douglas Shaw, who developed a line of ice cream and chocolates and expanded to over 50 locations before going bankrupt. In 2005, Marissa Dhillon bought the original West Portal storefront and has kept the tradition alive ever since. The long glass case is piled with homemade fudge and all manner of chocolate-coated goodies: toffee, graham crackers, coconut, cherries, orange peels and more. Truffles are available in dozens of flavors, such as strawberry frappe and Irish cream. In addition to candy, you’ll find a wide variety of Mitchell’s ice cream and flavored popcorns.