Xoco Hot Chocolate

Homemade Mexican Vanilla Soft Serve Xoco hot chocolate

At my get-together and book event the other evening here in Chicago, the biggest question I was asked by all who came by was – “Where are you eating while you’re in Chicago?” Thanks to a vast network of friends, bloggers, and assorted other folks (who I’ll get to in a minute), I’ve been eating incredibly well. People here are brimming with suggestions of places to go, near and far. And interesting, everyone wanted to know how long I was staying in town. Next time I come, I think I’ll create an online calendar and let folks fill in my dining itinerary because not once was I steered wrong. The only thing I lack is time, and tummy space.

When I travel, aside from eating, my most important order of business is lying in bed in my hotel-issued zebra-striped bathrobe (a photo of me in it will not be forthcoming) watching American television, and it’s hard to roust me from my horizontal position.

I’ve seen everything, from the sublime to the ridiculous. (Well, I’m still waiting for the sublime…and just who are all those housewives anyway?) I did have a mild panic attack when I inadvertently landed on Dr. Phil and the batteries for the remote control seemed to fail at that exact moment. And I had no choice but to scramble out of bed to flip the channel before I had to listen to too much of it. But whew, that was close…(but the image was still seared in my head, I’m afraid.)

Xoco chocolate

The day I arrived, the verdict from everyone seemed to be that I had to rise and shine, and go to Xoco, Rick Bayless’s small Mexican restaurant which specializes in tortas (sandwiches) and caldos (soups), as well as breakfast foods. Thankfully it’s near where I am staying so I didn’t have to engage in one of my least-favorite activities when I’m traveling, that is, getting lost in a strange city.

But although Chicagoans love to eat, they also like to drink. And aside from a late-night finish the other night at a chilled-out cocktail lounge called The Violet Hour, my friends and partners in crime from Spice Islands decided to make a mid-afternoon detour to Xoco which pours housemade hot chocolate.

hot chocolate tasting at Xoco

At Xoco, they don’t just melt chocolate; they grind up roasted Mexican cocoa beans and blend them with water or milk into dark, chocolatey beverages. There’s the Authentic, blended with milk and chocolate, another is whizzed together with almond milk called the Almendrado, and there’s a spiced Aztec, seasoned with chile and allspice. And that’s what I wanted.

david tasting tasting hot chocolate

We ordered all the cups we could carry and headed out to the sidewalk, due to limited seating. I think they gave me Authentic instead of the Aztec since it I didn’t detect any spices. (I think my spice-less cup might have been a victim of an ordering system which I struggled to master on my previous visit.) We stood outside, bundled up in our winter clothes in the cold Chicago air, and silently sipped and sampled. Some of my companions thought it was quite rich but I found the texture just-right because I’m not a fan of the viscous over-thick hot chocolate that’s makes me feel like I’m being force-fed, trying to get it down. My hot chocolate wasn’t super hot, or spiced, so I think next time I’ll wait for a seat inside.

It’s a great idea, making bean-to-bar hot chocolate, and something I’ve wondered why it hasn’t been done elsewhere. There’s also gracefully curved churros, sugar-dusted Mexican doughnuts, which are available with the Mexican vanilla soft-serve ice cream. I’ve been told – by everyone – that those churros are great, but will have to put those on my calendar for the next trip, or let someone else do it.



Xoco
449 North Clark Street
Chicago
Tel: 312-334-3688



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61 comments

  • Brother, you look like you’re **spitting** that stuff back *into* the cup in that photo! :)

  • Don’t be a Dr Phil hater !! He may resemble a friendly walrus, but his child raising advice is dead on.

  • Thanks for the early morning chuckle, David.I wasn’t expecting a post so soon but I’m always happy to hear from you.Have you ever thought of carrying a GPS with you on your travels?I hate the thought of you getting ” lost in a strange city”.It’s a horrible feeling.

  • YUM! That sounds delish! I love that they actually grind up the cocoa beans. What a unique hot chocolate and I bet it’s tasty!

  • That cocoa sounds great! I’d adding that place to my list. I’m headed to Chicago in two weeks, mainly to eat at Alinea, and I’d love to find out where else you dined! Any places you’d recommend? I’ve never been before, except to change planes at O’Hare.

  • This sounds incredible. Hot chocolate is a soul food – but only when made with mil. Nothing worse than expecting milk-based hot chocolate and finding out that you’ve just purchased chocolate-powder-water! If you have time for some incredible Italian while you’re in Chicago I recommend Ricardo Tratoria. If you ever go to Austin check out my blog for some suggestions! College kid trying to eat well. It’s quite an adventure. longhornfoodies.wordpress.com

  • Nice scarf!

  • What a fantastic job to travel the world and meet people and eat nifty stuff. You’re the envy of every foodie everywhere.

  • Ah. . . know the robes well- you stayed at one of the Kimpton Hotels in the City- they are great! Next time you are in Chicago, Sable is the place- their corn creme brulee’ is super- sweet and savory at the same time!

  • I can attest to the wonderfulness of that hot chocolate! My absolute favorite item there, though, is the churro. They are amazing, especially in a dunk of hot chocolate. Also, for your next trip, eat at Rick’s next door restaurant, Frontera Grill. It’s not an easy to get table, but there’s def a reason behind that. The absolute best Mexican I’ve ever ate. The crowded bar is lively and the margaritas delicious.

  • Too bad you didn’t try any of the sandwiches! You would have loved the Ahogada, filled with golden pork carnitas, black beans, tomato broth, spicy arbol chile sauce, pickled onions on exceptionally delicious bread. Your instinct is good – a table is worth waiting for.

  • elle: I had pozole on my previous visit!

  • The yogurt with the bacon and caramel streusel looks amazing! I am a fan of anything bacon and caramel related. In fact, I just made some bacon caramel corn. Best snack ever!

  • A mutual fan of our blogs left a comment with your link knowing I’d appreciate you as I’ve just returned from 2 weeks of la playa roasting at my parent’s home in Ixtapa and luuuv Paris. Read, Hermès. And, ya better believe a future Xoco visit is on my if I ever make it to Chicago short list…XXOO

  • Jeez, you’re making me want to move back, and I left because of those damn cold winters! Some of that hot chocolate might have made it all worthwhile.

  • David,

    If you have any time left in chicago, you absolutely MUST, MUST, MUST, go to chef bill kims BELLY SHACK for lunch OR the sister restaurant URBAN BELLY for dinner, and hit THE WHISTLER for drinks after. You have definitely hit some of chicagos hottest spots already (xoco, violet hour, kumas), but im afraid your chicago experience won’t be complete if you dont see the amazing things happening here outside the arena of burgers and mexican! In fact, Chef Bill Kim was the first chef in chicago to jump off the fine-dining wagon and get the delicious, affordable, very casual restaurant movement going! Finally, one your way out, if you’re flying united via o’hare, you will be delighted to find another outpost of rick bayless’s standing tall over the otherwise crappy airport vendors. It’s called Frontera Tortas, or something like that, and it’s brilliant with it’s yogurt bar, tortas, moletas, margaritas, nacho bar, etc.. Rick is paving the way for a new era in airport dining!!

  • Haha, great bathrobe! But how did you choose between the zebra and the leopard? Tough call! ;)

  • Given how bundled up you are, the hot chocolate looked like the right choice (over soft serve) for the day! Are you the (maybe-not-so-proud) owner of one zebra striped bathroom? Could make a nice throw for your livingroom!

  • oops, meant *bathrobe* heh…

  • It sounds like maybe Mexico could learn a few things from Rick about hot chocolate drinks. Allspice? I like the idea — will have to try it on the next cold day, which won’t be until next winter.

    Kathleen

  • David, Sooo, Sooo sorry I missed you. I didn’t know you were in town, (my fault) until I saw your post about Kuma’s Corner. Yes, Xoco is fab and I love their Azetec Hot Chocolate. You would have tasted the chile! Next visit, in addition to those already suggested, go to Vie out in ‘burbs and to Avec. Tip: you can eat at Frontera for lunch without a reservation by going to the bar area. There, you can dine on either the menu of Frontera or Topolobumpo! Divine, and it isn’t going to sit in your stomach all afternoon. You’ll have room for a great dinner. Give a heads-up on your blog when next in “Chic” Town.

  • ok, i’m glad i read through the comments this time and saw that someone already recommended the ahogada. i was there yesterday for lunch and can’t seem to get anything BUT that. well, some churros never hurt anyone either ;).

    glad you’re enjoying the city. i’m moving to san francisco in a week and although I know it will be awesome, it is hard to leave Chicago behind, that’s for sure!

  • I don’t know which comment made me laugh more, the housewives one, or the Dr. Phil one. Either way I was totally “laughing out loud”. I am a huge fan of Rick Bayless, I have many of his cookbooks, and am a huge fan of hot chocolate. Both types sound really good. One day I will hopefully adventure my family out east to Chicago to eat and drink too much at his restaurants. Thanks for a great blog. I look forward to reading it daily!
    Shanna

  • Were you lying prone or supine?

  • It’s been distinctly weird to sign on and see posts about hometown favorites. I wish I could have made it to the book signing on Thursday, but the harsh realities of my life kept me from getting up that early. Hopefully next time you’re in my region!

  • David, if you are ever in Vancouver, there is a place (Schokolade Cafe) that does a wonderful spicy Aztec hot chocolate – delicious!

  • As a Chicagoan, I’ve enjoyed reading about your culinary adventures here. This may violate your “getting lost in a strange city” rule, but if you are at all a fan of Indian food, I recommend venturing north to Devon Ave. Tiffin and Udupi Palace are favorites, but most any place will satisfy. But as you’ve no doubt learned, you could stay here for weeks (or live here for years, as I have) and not taste everything that Chicago has to offer!

  • While waiting on the salted butter caramel sauce to cool before churning the phillie vanilla ice cream from “The Perfect Scoop” I thought I’d check in (it’s 84º here with a strong breeze – ice cream is necessary). Two posts, and one with caramel. Funny. I also wondered about robe choice, and find it interesting that one is of the prey and the other, predator. I suppose the zebra look goes with hiding out, eh?

  • I’ve been to Topolobampo and Frontera Grill, and can’t wait to try Xoco!

  • Have you had the hot chocolate (or, better, half chocolate half coffee) from the guy at the marché bio raspail on sundays? I’d say it is as good as xoco.

  • I think you’ll find that everyone has recommendations for you on where to eat and enjoy excellent foods- your readers seem to have great taste! If you find yourself in Minneapolis ever, I’d be more than happy to add to your calendar of where to eat.

  • another kimpton victim here …… it does change your ideas about yourself……in all the wrong ways! i know i’m supposed to be commenting about xoco and chicago here, but just laughing too hard about the bathrobes and housewives. yeah, some culture shock, huh?

  • or maybe i should be commenting about that soft serve – yum!

  • Oh that hot chocolate is so good!!!! I wish you could have tried the churros! They truly are delish! : ) Light, airy, and full of cinnamony sugary goodness!

  • As long as you stay away from the tourist traps it’s very, very difficult to get a bad meal in Chicago. I like to wear the robe with my packable cheetah slippers (makes me feel like a housewife).

  • Good to meet you the other day and glad to hear you’re enjoying our fair city! We Chicagoans really enjoy our meals. I enjoy Xoco but man, that place stresses me out sometimes. The combination of the ordering process and the detailed hot chocolate menu always throws me for a loop. Add the long line of people behind me, feet tapping, and I tend to panic and order whatever the first one is with a churro thrown in for good measure. One of these days I’ll get it right!

  • I’ve only recently discovered churros and I’m a convert. Lots to chuckle about in this post – great start to the week.

  • Curious to know how you’d compare this with the hot chocolate from Angelina.

  • Kathy-Nice to meeet you at the event as well! Yes I did find the ordering and seating system rather stressful. I wasn’t sure where to stand, how to order, and what do do once I placed the order. Then when I went back for an ice cream, there was another round I had to go through. I think because the place is so small, and so busy, that’s the best solution I guess of dealing with the crowds.

  • mmmmm – hot chocolate…
    If you’re ever in Toronto try the Mayan hot chocolate at Soma – http://www.somachocolate.com/SOMA_home.html.

    The Lemon Sour Cream gelato is amazing too but that’s for another day.

  • Hi there

    I love Chicago.

    I have had some great meals in the Pilsen area of Chicago, including some amazing chili hot chocolate. Bom Bon cafe has fantastic sandwiches. I also really love Phoebe’s Cupcakes.

    I get to Paris more often (I live in the UK), and recently tried Schwartz’s. Yum. Thank you for the post!

  • ooh, ps–cocktails at Wang’s in Lakeview. Yes. Wang’s (cash only, though)

  • I liked the cat print robe myself, though I think the zebra one may go better with your coloring. No pic modeling it–where’s your courage!?

  • David,
    If you are going to tease those of us who are miles and miles away from these delicious sounding chocolate treats, the least you could do is have the courage to publish a little pic of you in the bathrobe. We wouldn’t laugh, honestly. Well, maybe we would, but you’d never know, we’d do it ever so quietly……
    To get even, I have to tell you it is now too warm here in southern Spain for hot chocolate (I’d love the soft serve though) but just right for afternoon tea on the terrace,
    so this weekend, I baked Caramel Cupcakes with Banana Cream Frosting and posted the recipe on my website. Odd how people always seem to turn up when I’ve been baking…….

  • I wish you hadn’t mentioned the hotel-issued zebra-striped bathrobe, because I really want to see a photo of that now! LOL

  • I couldn’t get past the maple-pecan-bacon-streusel and salted caramel sauce on the sign!!

    -Brenda

  • Hi David,

    Was looking for a relevant comments forum to ask you this question, but couldnt find one. I made your chocolate chip cookie dough for a mix in for an ice cream. The taste is great, but its a bit gritty because of undissolved brown sugar. Is that how its supposed to be? How do I ensure the sugar melts through with the butter while creaming? Cream it more till it does? Thank you!

  • Mandakini: Brown sugar can vary – did you make the cookie dough recipe in my ice cream book, intended for mixing in ice cream? If it’s another recipe, that’s intended for baking, those crystals normally dissolve when baked.

  • I made the one in The Perfect Scoop, mix in recipe. For next time, maybe I should put the brown sugar through a food processor and powder it first, before using. Thanks :-)

  • I’m sooo upset I didn’t know you were speaking here. I really wish I coulda came. Are you still here and do you have any other public events?

  • Alana: Am surprised (and sad) you didn’t hear about it because I posted about it on the site just a week ago, as well as setting up an Event page on Facebook and sent messages out on Twitter as well. (I also put events on my Schedule page, too, as well as mentioning it in my newsletter.)

    I didn’t want to bombard people with messages but you can several others mentioned they didn’t know about it. And I’m not sure what I can do in the future to get the word out without going overboard?

  • Wow I just made spanish chocolate milk this weekend!

    Recipe: Churros con Chocolate

    Suprizingly easy to make!

    Thanks to the above reader for the Toronto Soma tip. I will check that out next time I’m in the city.

  • I love hot chocolate and spicy homemade sounds delightful…
    Now, about those churro’s…. I understand they are a pain-in-the-ass to make.
    You won’t find any in Paris. Missed your chance ;)

  • Lisa: Actually, at some of the outdoor markets and fairs, people make chichis, which are churros!

    (Although there isn’t any hot chocolate made directly from cocoa beans.)

  • David – you shouldn’t miss the pizza at GREAT LAKE (Edgewater)!!! Also, please try to drop by AVEC, if you still have time. I love Chicago! Hope you enjoy the city.

  • I’m a huge fan of Rick Bayless. I never imagined I’d be living in Mexico when I first bought his book – Authentic Mexican many moons ago. I’ve been living and loving life in Mexico for almost 5 years now cooking all kinds of authentic Mexican food in my kitchen as well as savoring it at mercados and restaurants around this fascinating colorful country. I also never imagined I’d be blogging about chocolate and having all kinds of fun and exotic chocolate adventures that Rick Bayless is now offering Chicagoans. I’ll be visiting Xoco one of these days and I’m looking forward to it.

  • been there….done that….oh so good. the churros are magnificos!

  • I’ve heard that the Xoxo hot chocolate is awesome, but I really don’t think it can beat your Belgian hot chocolate. It’s just not possible! Glad you’re having fun in the Windy City!

  • I went here, too, when we saw that Frontera next door was packed–we were lucky to get seats even in here! The churros were so delicious with the hot chocolate, and the tortas were tasty, too.

    I’d also recommend Wishbone: http://www.wishbonechicago.com/dining/westloop/. This location is across the street from Oprah’s Harpo Studios. The cheesy shrimp and grits were amazing! Granted, I’ve never had real Southern grits to compare them to, but this was definitely memorable in all the right ways.

  • We went there in December and tried the churros. They were OK, but not great. I will qualify that with saying my churros standard was set in Madrid. There are some photos of Xoco churros and Madrid churros here: http://class-factotum.blogspot.com/2010/12/marriage-301-lecture-994-country-mice.html

  • I too am bummed that I missed you! But don’t think you could do anything differently. i missed you due to bad timing/luck. I just started a great new job, and it’s busy season, so my social media priorities went waaay – down…I’m behind on all my favorite blogs. I do hope you’ll get back to Chicago before too long, it’s definitely a foodie destination and I thoroughly recommend coming in the summer month when al fresco dining is at it’s peak! You can’t get me indoors in the summer!