San Francisco’s Sweet History

by Katie Cook

San Franciscan’s like to indulge: coffee, infused spirits, bacon, and chocolate are just a few favorites. San Francisco is home to many fine chocolate shops and chocolatiers, but few can say that their chocolate is actually made in San Francisco. This 4-mile self-guided walk focuses on some of San Francisco’s contemporary artisan chocolate-makers and the city’s chocolate pioneers of the past. This walk will take you through Ghiradelli Square, North Beach, the Ferry Building, and Jackson Square with plenty of opportunities for chocolate sampling along the way.

The walk begins at the Montgomery MUNI/BART station. Exit the station at Sansome/Sutter Streets and walk up Sansome toward Bush Street. Continue on Sansome until you reach 405 Sansome Street (near Sacramento Street).

This was the original location of the Guittard Chocolate Factory. Etienne Guittard opened the shop in 1868 as a coffee, tea, and chocolate business. Guittard died in 1899 from “a second stroke of apoplexy due to overwork.”  Guittard has retained its Bay Area roots and you can now find the factory in Burlingame.

The Ghirardelli family home and chocolate factory took up a good portion of the block on Jackson Street. Source: Ghirardelli Square Visitor Info

Continue walking on Sansome Street for two more blocks and make a left onto Jackson Street. Before Ghirardelli moved its operations to what is now Ghirardelli Square, the family business was located at 415-431 Jackson Street. It was at this site that the Ghirardelli empire was born.

Domingo Ghirardelli came to the Bay Area in 1849. After hearing about the fortunes the miners were making during the gold rush, he decided to leave Peru and try his hand at mining. His career as a miner didn’t last long. Shortly after his arrival he recognized the need for merchants to serve the miners and he opened a small store in Stockton. In 1850 Ghirardelli expanded his business and opened his first merchant supply store in San Francisco on the corner of Broadway and Battery, in the Veranda building, a well known gambling saloon. When a fire destroyed the Broadway store in 1853, Domingo relocated to Jackson Street. The chocolate factory was located on the first floor and the family lived on the second floor. Ghirardelli’s chocolate business continued to thrive and around 1880, Ghirardelli purchased the building next door- 407 Jackson Street.

Walk down Jackson Street, cross Montgomery, and make a right onto Columbus Avenue.  Walk along Columbus Avenue for about 6 blocks until you reach XOX Truffles at 754 Columbus Avenue.

Congratulations! You earned yourself a truffle break. All of XOX’s truffles are made fresh, in the store daily. The truffles are .75 cents each and you get a free truffle with any coffee purchase. I treated myself to the Honey Vodka, Earl Grey, and Red Wine truffles. While all of the truffles were delicious, the Earl Grey truffle was so outstanding that it left my mouth watering for days. XOX Truffles opened their doors in 1998 after Chef Jean-Marc Gorce and his wife Casimira Tobilla saw their truffle-making hobby go from hosting truffle-tasting parties in their home to shipping their truffles all the way to Italy. The shop itself is small and unassuming, but everywhere you look you’ll see chocolate awards and generous newspaper and magazine reviews. Sit at the sidewalk tables and enjoy your sweet treats before continuing to the next site.

In 1893 Ghirardelli’s sons moved the family business to what is now Ghirardelli Square

From XOX Truffles continue walking along Columbus heading towards the water. After about five blocks make a left onto North Point, and then a right onto Larkin Street. Ghirardelli Square and most importantly, the Ghirardelli chocolate shop is located at Larkin and North Point.

In 1893, Domingo Ghirardelli’s sons took over the family business. They purchased the old Pioneer Woolen Mill to house their growing business and the creation of Ghirardelli factory/square was born. Founded in 1858, Pioneer Woolen Mill manufactured uniforms for the Union soldiers during the Civil War. It was the first brick building to be built along the northern waterfront. The Woolen Mill became Ghirardelli’s cocoa building. In 1911 Ghirardelli added the clock tower and in 1915 the famous Ghirardelli sign was added. The sign was originally double-sided with lights on both sides of the sign. During the forced blackouts of World War II the lights on the famous sign were turned off and they remained off until the sign was renovated in 1964.

The Ghirardelli enterprises were sold to Golden Grain in 1963 and all of the chocolate manufacturing was moved to San Leandro. Ghirardelli has since changed ownership and is now part of Lindt and Sprungli Chocolate of Switzerland. Stop into the chocolate shop for a free piece of chocolate. If you are visiting Ghirardelli Square on a Wednesday, Thursday, or Saturday morning you can take a free, guided historical walking tour of the square.

TCHO produces all of their chocolate in San Francisco.

Make a left onto North Point Street and walk along North Point until it meets The Embarcadero. Make a right onto Embarcadero and walk along the Embarcadero until you reach the TCHO Chocolate Factory at Pier 17 (Embarcadero and Green Streets).

TCHO makes all of their chocolate on site and offers daily factory tours and tastings.  In 2005 Timothy Childs and Louis Rossetto founded TCHO with the goal of creating a dark chocolate that was as melt-in-your-mouth good as milk chocolate. Using their tech background Childs and Rossetto did something that no other Bay Area chocolate manufacturer has done- they started educating their cocoa bean producers. In an attempt to better control the fermentation process Childs and Rossetto travelled to Peru, Educador, Ghana, and Madagascar and set-up mini manufacturing plants. The cocoa growers went from never having tried a TCHO chocolate bar to being experts in chocolate production and manufacturing. Take a tour of the TCHO factory to learn more about their innovative approach to chocolate production and taste some of their unique chocolate.

Leave TCHO and make a left onto Embarcadero. We are going to end our tour at Ferry Building on Embarcadero and Market.

Grab some lunch at the Ferry Building and visit Scharffen Berger Chocolates and Recchiuti Confections while you’re there. Scharffen Berger started out as a Berkeley-based company, but have since moved their operations to the Midwest. Recchiuti Confections makes beautiful chocolates out of their plant in Potrero Hill. Their chocolates are so beautiful that I almost hate to eat them.

There are a few chocolate companies that deserve to be mentioned, but due to their location I couldn’t include them in the walk. If your sweet tooth needs further indulgence hop on the outbound T-line at the Embarcadero station and head over to Poco Dolce’s kitchen and store at 2419 Third Street (between 20th and 22nd Streets). I highly recommend sampling some of their chocolate tiles topped with sea salt. Two other spots worth checking out are Bridge Brand Chocolate at 286 12th Street and the Hooker’s Sweet Treats located at 442 Hyde Street. Hooker’s makes amazing handmade dark chocolate covered caramels.


Sources: San Francisco Chronicle (1869-Current File); Jul 12, 1899; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: San Francisco Chronicle (1865-1922) pg. 9.



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