Delectable, delightful and absolutely gorgeous, MarieBelle Fine Treats and Chocolates sets the standard for chocolate shops. This New York City establishment is known for its attention to detail and has some of the most beautifully designed chocolates and packaging in the business. With a style that is luxurious, but not pretentious, contemporary, but not stuffy, MarieBelle achieves a perfect balance of sophistication and fun.
The SoHo location is half chocolate shop, half cacao bar and will keep you entranced for hours. Immediately upon entering the store, customers pass an impressive four tiered, 36-piece truffle box that begs to be taken home. Don’t let the $295 price tag for this showpiece deter you from continuing on through the store; the rest of the shop holds an array of books, dishware, coffee, tea, hot chocolate and of course, chocolates, to suit a range of tastes and budgets. My favorite items include a book of chocolate posters and a gift set for chocolate addicts. You can also get your non-chocolate “Oral Fixation” (don’t look at me, it’s the product name) from a box of Deadly Cinnamon or Mojito mints. If the prepackaged gifts aren’t for you, you can fill your own chocolate box at the counter in the back with a selection of flavors including Pistachio, Pineapple, Passion Fruit, Cinnamon, Hazelnut, Creamy Caramel, Saffron, Cardamom and more. The two-toned blue and brown Italian chocolate boxes come wrapped in a signature MarieBelle bow (bright pastel boxes are also available for spring), making a perfect gift for friends and family.
The chocolate counter is separated from the cacao bar in the back by a large bay window, completely dividing the two spaces while allowing for nice views of the action on both sides. Cappuccino, espresso and their famous hot chocolate are available at the cacao bar, and if you ask nicely enough you might even be able to get a cup of coffee (a friend of mine once tried to purchase coffee but after placing his order the waitress immediately scoffed at the idea and suggested a cappuccino instead). It’s definitely the atmosphere and interesting products that keep me coming back, not the wait staff.
While at the cacao bar I ordered a medium size of the Aztec Hot Chocolate made of 63% dark chocolate (Belgian cocoa, no cocoa powder). The hot chocolate at MarieBelle can be prepared American style, with milk, or European style, without milk, and being the Francophile that I am I opted for the European variety. The Aztec Hot Chocolate turned out to be as thick as warm pudding, and I’m not sure adding milk would have helped. The hot chocolate is so thick that I could not drink more than three sips, and was disapointed that the waitress did not warn me that a small size would be plenty. The cacao bar offers three other hot chocolate varieties in addition to the Aztec: Spicy (chipotle, cinnamon, nutmeg and ancho chilies), Cafe Negro (Venezuelan coffee), and Dark (72% dark chocolate).
What I bought: Aztec Hot Chocolate, European style (Medium, $5). The hot chocolate is rich and smooth, but too thick to have more than a few sips. (I recommend ordering a small size for $3). I would have enjoyed a thinner chocolate drink and am still looking for one that I can have on a regular basis (like coffee).
Cost: MarieBelle chocolates are expensive, with eclectic ingredients, custom designs and Italian packaging accounting for the higher than average prices. The smallest box with 2 pieces sells for $7 and the more substantial 25-piece box costs $47. Prices for tiered boxes are significantly higher ($78+).
Wait: Service at MarieBelle is quick, with a typical wait of less than 5 minutes for both the store and cacao bar purchases. The line to create your own chocolate box can get long around the holidays.
Atmosphere: The large, open retail area is painted a calming blue, and dark brown shelves are filled with a variety of colorful products. The tabletops in the cacao bar are all unique, and represent the different designs found on the boxed chocolates. A large brass cappuccino machine, antique mirrors, hand drawn paintings and even a picture of the founder herself, Maribel Lieberman, decorate the space.
Uniqueness: It is rare to find a full fledged chocolate shop and cacao bar in one space, and the combination creates a nice environment for both shopping and relaxing. It seems that most chocolate shops are decorating their truffles with artistic designs these days (RichArt, Jacques Torres, etc.), but MarieBelle’s are still above par.
Clientele: Young professionals and SoHo locals.
Location: MarieBelle is in the trendy SoHo shopping area, a short walk from the #6 Spring Street subway. (It is directly across the street from the cookware store, Broadway Panhandler). The entrance is hidden in the main building entryway and easy to miss, so keep an eye out for MarieBelle’s signature brown and blue sign hanging over the sidewalk.
Staff:I have always found the sales clerks at the chocolate counter to be very friendly and suggestive, but the table service at the cacao bar is less helpful.
Final Verdict:MarieBelle is a sweet example of what a chocolate shop should be.
MarieBelle Fine Treats and Chocolates
484 Broome Street (at Wooster), Ground Floor
(866) 925-8800 toll free
Open Daily from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm