The French Broad Chocolate Lounge is a fantastic restaurant that centers entirely around chocolate – a location that I was fortunate enough to visit on a recent trip to Asheville. I visited many food spots in the city, but this was the establishment that captured my taste buds, my tummy, and my heart. It is unique, delicious, and comfortable – all the trappings of an amazing dining experience.
French Broad Chocolate Lounge is nestled on South Lexington Avenue in downtown Asheville, just off of Patton Avenue. It’s a charming afternoon stop, and expect to see a line out the door on Saturday evenings with a staff member managing the crowd. It’s quite popular for locals and visitors alike. Sure, you can buy their chocolates on their website, but let me assure you that the line is well worth it. To truly experience French Broad, you must visit.
Upon entering, you are greeted by seating, including tables and chairs that lack the industrial feel of your typical chain restaurant and a plush couch. To your left, you see the stairs to additional seating upstairs, followed by a corner of T-shirts, chocolate bars, and much more. The counter appears immediately after, but you’ll have already met the gaze of truffles, baked goods like tiramisu and cake stands with large, exquisite cakes, and many more drool-inducing goodies. You’ll find yourself unable to decide between the chocolate almond macaroons, the chocolate creme brûlée, the four or five cake selections, or the tiramisu in a mug.
During my short time in Asheville, I visited this cacao lovin’ lounge two times. (One visit just wasn’t enough!) During my first visit, I sampled the tiramisu – served with a spoon in a white mug – and cappuccino. The tiramisu combined decadent layers of cake, mascarpone, coffee, and chocolate, but with a light, flavorful finish that was such a surprise! I typically experience tiramisu as a rather heavy dessert, but this rendition seemed to melt in my mouth. Combined with the rich notes of the cappuccino, it was the perfect afternoon snack after a day of walking the downtown area and taking in the sights.
My second visit came after a late dinner. It was as if the chocolate lounge was calling to me. “You can’t leave without devouring more of my delicious chocolate! Come to me…” I answered the call and returned. The lounge was filled with people, no doubt also answering a similar call. The line seemed endless, but I patiently waited, entertained outside by one of the staff telling jokes and offering truffle suggestions. And the wait was entirely worth it. Chocolate like this can’t be found packaged at the local retail store.
Magic is made at the French Broad Chocolate Lounge.
This visit was all about truffles. I picked up a total several truffles, including a box for my fella. My favorite – and I write this with NO hesitation – was the Fresh Raspberry Truffle, a combination of dark chocolate and local raspberry puree. I usually find myself drawn to fruity truffles with a more liquid, fruit center, but every bite of this truffle was infused with raspberry flavor. Think of a ridiculously fresh raspberry wrapped in a blanket of 55% cacao dark chocolate. An oral symphony. I also adored the Cafe Au Late Truffle and the Dark Chocolate Honey Salted Caramel, but the raspberry stole my heart and my stomach.
I’ve sampled truffles from many cities across the country, and I’ve regularly devoured those commercially available, such as Godiva or Lindt. These truffles make every experience I’d had before with these rich chocolates horribly disappointing in comparison. Each truffle I sampled was incredibly flavorful, and the local ingredients shined through. The flavor dimensions left me stunned – is this what chocolate is really like? When you sample one of these truffles, the experience of milk and dark chocolate is redefined for you, and frankly, you’re left realizing that you didn’t know what real chocolate is actually like to smell and taste. I thought I’d tasted it all. But it seems that “all” was waiting for me – in a well-lighted glass case with a smiling chocolate connoisseur waiting to assist me in deciding among the ample selection.
The menu encompasses so many items that I didn’t even have a chance to try – like decadent brownies, ganache-based drinking chocolate, liquid truffles (!), and an extensive cookie selection. There’s something for everyone, unless you make up a minority that finds no pleasure in chocolate. (You have my sympathies.)
The French Broad Chocolate Lounge – with its friendly, happy, and helpful staff and chocolate confections that will redefine cocoa for you – is a must-visit on any trip to Asheville. I visited numerous restaurants in the city and experienced an abundance of beautifully and expertly executed local dishes, but when I think of my favorite taste of the city, I automatically think of this charming, chocolatey adventure.
Update: French Broad Chocolate Lounge has moved since my early 2014 visit. They are still in downtown Asheville but now located on S. Pack Square.