Ranking Asheville’s Chocolatiers

Asheville is best known for several different things: unique art, refreshing beer, scenic mountains, the Biltmore Estate. But there’s one more thing that should be added to the list…CHOCOLATE! With a plethora of dining choices in town serving up decadent desserts, it’s not hard to find a place to clinch that sweet tooth craving. But for true chocolate lovers and savants, the real chocolate jewels will be found in the locally owned, fine artisan chocolate shops; French Broad Chocolates, The Chocolate Fetish, Chocolate Gems, and The Chocolate Lab. (There is a Kilwin’s located downtown, but for this article, we’re sticking with purely Asheville-grown places.) Let’s find out where each shop ranks!  dsc02807-pano

Each local chocolate maker has a unique quality that sets it apart from the others. One shop may be all about perfecting that smooth, creamy chocolate center goodness, while another shop will be all about finding unique flavors to blend together to achieve an extraordinary savory experience. One thing they all have in common; their truffles are all out of this world delicious. Before we get to all the rankings, let’s get to know each of the shops a little bit better.

dsc02773-panoFrench Broad Chocolates – Originally operated out of a home kitchen, the demand quickly outgrew the space, and in 2008 the French Broad Chocolate Lounge opened on Lexington Avenue. Continuing to grow, in 2012 they opened the French Broad Chocolate Factory and Tasting Room on Buxton Avenue, where visitors can take a tour and see where they make all of their chocolates, and even try some samples of their organic and homemade chocolate bars. Recently relocated to Pack Square from the Lexington Ave. location, the French Broad Chocolate Lounge has become an Asheville staple for after dinner dessert…usually seeing lines spilling out the door. It’s easy to see why , as everything is locally sourced and made, and the quality is superb. *If you only have time to visit one chocolate shop, this would be it.*

dsc02689-panoThe Chocolate Fetish – Serving Asheville since 1986, The Chocolate Fetish has grown into a must do Asheville destination, as well as an internationally recognized hot spot for artisan chocolates. For the 5th year in a row, The Chocolate Fetish has won the Best Chocolatiers and Confectioners in America Award. With several award winning truffles to choose from, it’s hard to go wrong with whatever you decide to get.

dsc02710-panoChocolate Gems – After six years in Black Mountain, NC, Chocolate Gems moved to downtown Asheville in 2011. Offering chocolates, gelato, coffee, pastries, and even chocolate noodles, Chocolate Gems is a great place to take a pit stop while exploring the downtown area. They even offer classes for those wanting to learn how to make artisan chocolate at home.

dsc02842The Chocolate Lab – The only shop not located in downtown Asheville, you can find The Chocolate Lab only a few miles north in the Woodfin area. The only shop on the list that features local beer and wine truffles, The Chocolate Lab is known for their unique and experimental flavors…and it’s definitely worth the short drive north to check it out.

dsc02908And now the rankings……

Best Hangout Spot 

  1. French Broad Chocolate Lounge – offering everything from truffles and pastries to coffee and beer to even the unique and awesome liquid truffle (below), the Chocolate Lounge is the best place to sit and hangout while enjoying chocolate. The central location and outdoor seating make it a great place to people watch…and it’s an easy walk from any downtown restaurant for an after meal treat.dsc02746-pano
  2. Chocolate Gems – offers a large indoor seating area, as well as a good variety of chocolates, pastries, and drinks…and is in a central location.
  3. The Chocolate Lab – offers comfortable seating and a nice relaxed atmosphere, outside of the busy downtown scene.
  4. The Chocolate Fetish – limited seating and the limited variety of non-chocolate menu items make this a great place to grab some truffles to go…but not much else.

Best Overall Chocolate Selection

  1. The Chocolate Fetish – huge, unique selection of truffles and chocolates…and a large assortment of chocolate gifts. There’s a flavor and style for all tastebuds.dsc02643-pano
  2. French Broad Chocolates– offers a large selection of truffles and chocolate bars.
  3. The Chocolate Lab
  4. Chocolate Gems 

Best All-Around Chocolate (Quality/Taste)

  1. The Chocolate Fetish – truly is the best quality of chocolate Asheville has to offer, with a ton of award winning, unique flavors. You really can’t go wrong with any selection from here, and I suggest trying as many as you can…even if your stomach is telling you otherwise.dsc02671
  2. French Broad Chocolates – it’s hard to go wrong with any local, organic product, and French Broad Chocolates is no exception. Great quality and good variety in flavors and choices.
  3. Chocolate Gems – sometimes quality is better than quantity…which is definitely the case here. Not the largest of selections, but all of the chocolates are fantastic.
  4. The Chocolate Lab – the unique beer and wine truffles really set The Chocolate Lab apart from the others, but a lot of the flavors tend to be understated and a bit underwhelming…which, I admit, isn’t necessarily a bad thing (because the truffles are all very good), but sometimes it’s better if the flavors standout, and not blend into the background.

Best Unique Selection

  1. The Chocolate Fetish – with names like Dragon’s Sigh, Ancient Pleasures, Velvet Sin, and Blossom…it’s hard to top the assortment of flavors The Chocolate Fetish offers. You’ll find hints of ginger, cayenne, lavender, lemon zest, wasabi, and even champagne in these truffles. dsc02684-pano
  2. French Broad Chocolates – offering flavors like lemongrass and ginger, horchata, hibiscus grapefruit caramel, and pistachio.
  3. The Chocolate Lab – a nice, unique blend of local beer and wine selections, as well as a large array of classic flavors.
  4. Chocolate Gems – they don’t stray too far from classic flavors, but they do offer a few, such as cayenne, margarita, pistachio…as well as chocolates from different parts of the world, like Africa, Ecuador, Peru, and even locally in Black Mountain.

Best Texture (which has the best “mouthfeel”)

  1. The Chocolate Lab – each truffle is smooth and creamy with a rich velvety feel. They all melt in your mouth.dsc02844
  2. The Chocolate Fetish
  3. French Broad Chocolates
  4. Chocolate Gems

The Best Truffle/Chocolate

  1. Chocolate Gems: Firecracker – without a doubt the most unique, intriguing, and delicious chocolate I’ve ever tasted. Like it’s namesake indicates, eating one is what I imagine a firework show in your mouth would taste like. It’s a blend of chocolate, spice, and pop rocks…and it truly is an adventure. There is no comparison…if you have to choose one piece of chocolate, it’s this one.  dsc02703

 

Honestly, you can’t go wrong with any of the chocolate shops in Asheville. Each place serves quality, handmade chocolate and each has their own unique characteristics and style. I suggest doing a ‘chocolate tour’ of the city and getting a few things from each place, because each place is definitely worth a visit. Leave a comment below about your favorite flavor or chocolate place!dsc02512dsc02914dsc02799

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