If your go-to candy stores in San Francisco are Ghirardelli’s and See’s, you’re really missing out. There are so many sweet shops in the city with something special in their glass jars and bins, whether it’s a sugary dose of nostalgia or a wholly grown-up treat (champagne gummies, anyone?). Pop into these local candy stores for a sweet pick-me-up.
San Francisco’s best candy stores
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.
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.
Mary Mueller peddles “sweet tooth provisions” from her three-year-old 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.
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 S.F. 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.
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.)
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.