ACKC Cocoa Bar

Now, here's real hot chocolate.

At the new ACKC Cocoa Bar, chocolate, not coffee, is the bean of choice. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

If you worship at the altar of chocolate, you might want to make a pilgrimage to the ACKC Cocoa Bar. This arty cafe/gallery conjures up a Euro-style espresso bar, but with the cocoa bean front and center.

Eight varieties of hot chocolate are steeped with real chocolate—milk, semisweet, and bittersweet—making for a deeper, richer flavor than powdered cocoa.

We like the Audrey, an espresso cup filled with an intense, not overly sugary French-style brew, and the milkier Liz, infused with a soupçon of lavender. And although anything made of white chocolate is suspect, the Marilyn, a foamy cup laced with citrus and candied orange peel, drank surprisingly well.

Less appealing are the caramel-swirled and cloying Charro and the tongue-searing Lucy spiked with chipotle—references to the “cuchi-cuchi” entertainer and Lucille Ball. For coffee lovers, there’s dark-roast Italian Lavazza.

Those who prefer their chocolate in bonbon form can turn to the glass cases holding an array of high-end chocolates from Christopher’s Confections, Chocolaterie Wanders, and Kingsbury Chocolates in Alexandria.

ACKC is a joint venture by Eric Nelson, the artist owner of Artfully Chocolate, a chocolate boutique in Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood, and Robert Kingsbury, the owner/chocolate maker at Kingsbury. Nelson’s colorful paintings and graphics grace ACKC’s walls, tables, and mugs; the tables, paintings, and mugs are for sale. Other cases hold pastries, cakes, and savories from Alexandria’s Buzz Bakery to eat in or take out.

ACKC—the name is an acronym for Artfully Chocolate and Kingsbury Confections—would appear to offer something for everyone, but we’d love one addition: the thick European-style hot chocolate found at places such as MarieBelle and the Paris import La Maison du Chocolat in New York. Until then, the Audrey will do just fine.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.