French Broad Chocolate Lounge Review in Asheville, NC
Local Business Reviews,  Wining & Dining

French Broad Chocolate Lounge Review: All About Cacao

In what I assume was a bit of a cosmic joke, I spent a week in Asheville when I was a young and chipper 20-year-old. It was mere months before I could legally partake in the (then very young) brewery scene or wander into a bar with my college roommate, who was also hanging out for the week here. 

But we discovered, just blocks away from our hostel, the perfect spot for people who couldn’t legally drink but who wanted to have a destination in the evening: the French Broad Chocolate Lounge. There was something so special about walking into the sweet, crowded little shop and breathing in the wildly delicious aromas of melted chocolate, butter, and sugar. 

I would order my salted caramel-flavored liquid truffle drink, which came in a tiny cup, and sip tiny morsels of melted chocolate while chatting with my friend. We could dawdle there till 10 pm, which, even though it involved no alcohol, felt like a night on the town to us. 

That’s what I think the French Broad Chocolate Lounge does so well – even after all this time, they have a strong reputation for being a place that isn’t a restaurant and isn’t home but is a little lovely extra space. It’s a good place if you are wanting a weekday coffee or tea or an evening glass of wine, but the centerpiece has always been chocolate, and chocolate that is near-obsessively well-designed.

French Broad Chocolate Lounge Products
All images are courtesy of French Broad Chocolate Lounge

My husband and I had the privilege of touring the French Broad Chocolate Factory on Riverside Drive last fall. It was incredible to learn just how involved this company has gotten in their sourcing: they want to make sure they’re creating a supply chain that doesn’t exploit farmers but instead gets the best crops by paying living wages to everyone involved. 

We got to see short videos and explanations all about how cacao is harvested, fermented, and prepared to become cocoa and then chocolate. We got to try an actual cacao nib, which tastes good but in more of a “coffee bean” way than in a creamy, milky candy way. 

We also got to wander through the facility, learning more about how much French Broad Chocolate has ramped up production so they can sell beyond their downtown and Riverside shops.

That factory location is beautifully designed and tailored in the same look and feel as the main location, and it is the powerhouse behind an online empire, where chocolate can be packed and shipped all over. If you can’t make up your mind when you’re on-site, rest assured you can always order more later, even if you live outside Asheville.

French Broad Chocolate Lounge in Asheville

While the shop is known for somewhat legendary lines out the door that can mean it takes a bit to get your chocolate, French Broad Chocolate Lounge has optimized over the years. They recognize that guests need to be entertained as they await their treats, so the snaking line weaves up and around past shelves of chocolate options and gifts.

There are menus available to peruse so that you’re ready to order by the time you get to the counter – this keeps things moving. Once you order, you take a number to your table and await the arrival of any sweets that needed to be prepared first. 

As a local, I don’t always feel like braving a huge crowd during busy tourist days. That’s when I sneak into the little retail side-shop just down the street. The menu is stripped down, but you can buy to-go chocolate, which is why I like it. 

My go-to as a parent of a toddler when we want a little date night but don’t have the bandwidth is to buy a six-piece bonbon collection from French Broad and try each one together – we each end up eating three total chocolates (which is delicious) and getting to try them all.

French Broad Chocolate Lounge Review

With collections devoted to vegan flavors, signature flavors, local ingredients, and even, for a while, a Mother’s Day collection in partnership with various women-owned businesses, there’s often a collection we haven’t tried. 

I think that’s the key to having dessert at French Broad Chocolate Lounge: even the most hardcore sweet tooths are going to need small amounts, given this level of richness, so if multiple desserts speak to you, consider getting items for the table and then divvying them up so everyone gets a few mini desserts. 

Take the truffle torte: this flourless torte is like a mixture between a brownie and a block of fudge on a cardamom and pistachio cookie crust, with cinnamon almond whipped cream and a medallion of chocolate decorating the top – you can see why this is richness in every mouthful! 

Or take the salted caramel and chocolate tart, starting with buttery shortbread, salted caramel, dark chocolate ganache, and then whipped cream – it’s all amazing, but even a small serving will fill you up. 

Their ice cream in a float, milkshake, or affogato (covered in a shot of espresso) is truly luxurious. I loved their golden milk (turmeric flavored) ice cream with espresso poured over it as an afternoon treat the other day. Basically, you’ll be able to find something to enjoy even if chocolate isn’t your passion (though there is chocolate in a lot of the options here).

My final favorite reason why the French Broad Chocolate Lounge is a good stop is for gifts. If you want to bring something home with you from Asheville but know that your friends and family like consumable gifts, there are a host of options for ultra-high-quality chocolate treats with a backstory. 

Gifts like the 10-bar set, where each bar is sourced from cacao from a different country, tell a story, create an experience, and let your family and friends sample something genuine and ethically made. What a fun taste test to do after your Asheville trip! 

I like the Chocolate Lounge as a luxurious stop during a busy and budget-conscious season of my life – if I can be careful and pinch the pennies by cooking at home, something to sip and something to snack on at the lounge is a pretty reasonable treat (I’d be in trouble if I worked next door, though). 

I like the idea of varying up the idea of coffee dates with a chocolate date, especially if you want to cut back a little on caffeinated coffee and want something sweet instead. Just the unusual nature of this shop – not just a bakery, not just an ice cream parlor, not just a coffee shop – makes for a special experience that you’ll be telling friends about for days afterward.

French Broad Chocolate Lounge (Pack Square): 10 S. Pack Square, Asheville.

French Broad Chocolate Factory & Cafe: 821 Riverside Dr. #199, Asheville.

There you have it! Our review of the French Broad Chocolate Lounge in Asheville. Have you been to the French Broad Chocolate Lounge? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.

Laura finally got to move to Asheville in 2021 after a decade of visits and hangouts here. She loves the food, the coffee shops, and the riverfront in Asheville. Laura is always finding something new and wonderful to try.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *