The best part of any trip may be the sweet treats you take home as gifts or to enjoy later as a remembrance of the good time you had. When my wife and I travel, either for business or on vacation, we enjoy visiting local chocolate and candy stores and usually end up bringing home some delicious chocolates or other locally produced sweet treats. We enjoy recommending candy shops for people to visit when they ask for travel ideas. And, when we receive a travel bag from family or friends, there is something special about pulling out a box of chocolates. Sometimes, I feel like Forrest Gump when I dig into a box of chocolates.
The Midwest is home to some unique shops that create hand-made chocolate treats. When I started working on this list, I thought, “Where would I want people to recommend I visit,” so I believe you’ll enjoy sampling these 11 succulent chocolate shops around the Midwest.
1. Chocolat Abeille
Located in Omaha’s famed Old Market, Chocolat Abeille’s handmade chocolates may be too beautiful to eat. With 21 varieties to choose from, each piece is handcrafted using special ingredients, such as Jim Beam bourbon, Spanish sea salt, and toasted pecans. Five chocolates are made using their own honey, which is curated from their honey bee farm in Sarpy County. Each piece of chocolate is hand-painted, with unique designs that make it look more like a piece of jewelry than candy. Speaking of honey, Chocolat Abeille also sells bottles of their sweet nectar.
2. Van Veen Chocolates
What started as a treat to entice his farm equipment customers grew into a delectable business for Chuck and Jill Van Veen. Chuck would give clients some of his mom’s homemade peanut brittle. When the sweet treats became too much for Mom to keep making, Chuck took over. The Van Veens sold their treats at bazaars. Then, they opened Van Veen Chocolates in downtown Pella, and everything took from there. Now, daughter Marji and her husband Matt create the family treat along with fresh chocolate stukjes (Dutch for pieces), meltaways, and butter toffee. The candy shop is located next door to the city’s old Opera House, which seems appropriate in the Dutch town, just a few feet from the city’s famous windmill.
3. DeBrand Fine Chocolates
A combination of love for art and chocolate-making created DeBrand Fine Chocolates more than three decades ago. The Indianapolis confectionary creates art with each of its chocolates, which come in classic (old-fashioned caramel-filled chocolates), truffle with oversized pieces, hand-painted for your enjoyment, and a connoisseur collection, which entices chocolate aficionados to sample unique and rare flavors.
4. Cocoa Dolce
When you open a box of chocolates from Cocoa Dolce, you know you did something right to earn the savory treat. The hand-crafted artisan chocolates are as beautiful to admire as they are delicious to taste. Visitors to the confectionary can watch chocolates being created in its factory through floor-to-ceiling windows. Whether you order a collection or specialty set or build your own gift box, you’re sure to enjoy the treats. Cocoa Dolce also offers gift boxes featuring their handmade pastries, including macarons, cookies (red velvet, peanut butter, and chocolate chip), and scones.
5. Palmer Candy
Sioux City, Iowa
Home of the regional favorite Bing candy bar (which was my dad’s all-time favorite candy), Palmer Candy has been producing the chocolate and nut-covered cherry nougat mounds for almost 100 years. The sweet treat comes in a twin pack or even a triple package. Besides the Bing, Palmer is also known for its chocolate candies, fudge, gourmet chocolate truffles, and peanut brittle. A visit to its Olde Tyme Candy Shoppe in Sioux City also offers a look into the company’s history with vintage equipment and supplies used during its early days.
6. Lagomarcino’s Confectionary
A must-stop when visiting the Quad Cities, Lagamarcino’s Confectionary offers so much to see and taste. From its diner with sandwiches and ice cream treats (try the egg creme) to its handmade chocolates, Lagomarcino’s has been a local staple for more than 100 years. With all chocolates and candies made onsite in the confectionary’s copper kettle, you’ll enjoy sampling malted balls, sea salt caramel bites, star-shaped chocolates, and English toffees. You may also find white chocolates and more in the shape of high heels. And, don’t forget Lagomarcino’s candy such as cherry sours and strawberry licorice.
7. Bakers Candies
Known for its chocolate meltaways, Bakers Candies is Nebraska’s largest candy store. Made with dark chocolate and milk chocolate, Bakers sells more than 30 million pieces of meltaways, which are named because they melt in your mouth. With a variety of flavors to choose from, you can create your own bag of meltaways or choose a collection box or bag. You can also buy other locally produced candies, such as French-burnt peanuts, orange slices, and licorice.
8. Carol Widman's Candy Co.
Grand Forks, North Dakota
You’ve never had a potato chip like a Chipper from Carol Widman’s Candy Co. Using Red River Valley-grown potatoes, the candy shop tops them with milk or dark chocolate to create Chippers, a delicious treat. With the crunch of the potato chip combined with the savory flavor and the sweetness of the chocolate, you may think you’re in culinary heaven. Supporting North Dakota businesses, you can also buy chocolate-covered sunflower seeds, as well as traditional chocolate pieces.
9. Crown Candy Kitchen
St. Louis, Missouri
Home to St. Louis’ oldest soda fountain, you’ve got to enjoy a sandwich and milkshake during your visit to the classic Crown Candy Kitchen. With memorabilia covering almost every inch of the place, you can find vintage soda collectibles from a century ago. Crown Candy is known for its homemade chocolates, such as chocolate bars, hand-dipped pecan clusters, and snappers (chocolate-covered pecans and caramel). You can order themed sets or seasonal packages, too.
10. Russell Stover Candy
While it has its headquarters in Kansas City, Missouri, you can find Russell Stover Candy stores in several cities. But, it’s not often that you’ll find a chocolate-covered teddy bear sitting outside a store, inviting you to come in and check out the goodies. In Abilene, the hometown of war hero and President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Russell Stover store is a chocolate lover’s paradise. Whether you pick out your favorite chocolates to create your own treat bag or select one of Stover’s famous boxed sets, you know you’re going to enjoy the treats produced at the store.
11. Christopher Elbow Chocolates
Kansas City, Missouri
From the bright lights of Las Vegas and Emeril’s Eiffel Tower restaurant to Kansas City’s Crossroads art district, Christopher Elbow came home to create his own style of chocolates. Using spices, such as cinnamon and pepper, Christopher Elbow Chocolates creates artisan chocolates in small batches, allowing for the chef’s attention to detail. Using an artist’s eye to create unique pieces, Christopher Elbow Chocolates is also known for its signature chocolate bars, featuring lavender, macadamia, sea salt, and a chipotle-cinnamon blend.
While local chocolate shops make for delicious treats, several of their candies that made this list have short shelf lives, so you’ll want to make sure you either consume them within a week or two after buying them or remind the recipients of your gift that they’ll want to enjoy them soon. If you’re a wine enthusiast, you may want to stop by a local winery or tasting room to pick up a bottle or two to pair with your chocolates or add to a gift bag.