Welcome back to Tiger Town Treats, a Prospect series where we compare delicious snacks ’n sips from local businesses so you know where to go to satisfy that one craving or reward yourself after that rough final!
Our first installment featured boba spots. Since then, we’ve sampled ice cream, gluten-free desserts, pizza, and iced lattes.
Now for some holiday magic: HOT CHOCOLATE.
I sampled hot cocoa from six establishments in town: Small World Coffee, Halo Pub, The Bent Spoon, Starbucks, PJ’s Pancake House, and Milk & Cookies. I was shocked to find so many places serving this chocolaty treat. Every time I thought I had tried it all, I found more shops to explore! Now that winter is right around the corner, I recommend you all go out and get a steamy cup of cocoa to warm up. And let us know what hot cocoa locations we missed!
You can also check out this TikTok, featuring videos of each location to get a feel for the vibe yourself!
First Stop: Small World Coffee
Flavor: Small World’s hot chocolate was rich and packed with a powerful chocolate flavor. Their “hot cocoa” lives up to the name in two ways: first, it comes out absolutely scalding, and second, the taste of cocoa is actually present. This is much more than a whisper of Nesquik in steamed milk.
Texture: Small World’s hot cocoa was creamy and thick. It had a certain body and fullness to it without being too heavy. Even the small cup left me feeling extremely satisfied.
Final Thoughts: Small World offers a solid standard hot cocoa for chocolate lovers, but they also have a “Mexican Hot Chocolate,” packed with pepper and bite. Next time your friends are headed out for coffee, give these sweet and spicy options a try!
Up Next: Halo Pub
Flavor: Halo Pub’s hot chocolate was not immediately super chocolaty. While it was sweet, it didn’t have that presence of cocoa that I was looking for. This surprised me given how amazing their chocolate-based ice creams are. It was more of a sweet steamed milk (which I can appreciate, but it wasn’t quite what I was looking for). Halo Pub hot cocoa could be a good option for those looking for something warm and sweet but not overly rich.
Texture: Halo Pub’s hot chocolate had a bit of a thinner texture compared to what I normally look for in hot cocoa. It didn’t have that same body and creaminess as the other locations I tried. But again, if you are looking for something on the lighter side, swing by next time you are down on Hulfish.
Final Thoughts: In the future, if I am at Halo Pub I will be getting a scoop (or pint!) of their fantastic ice cream, but I may not order their standard hot cocoa again. However, I am just one cocoa enthusiast. What doesn’t do it for me may be just the ticket to satisfy your sweet tooth, so give it a try for yourself!
Then on to: The Bent Spoon
Flavor: The Bent Spoon hot cocoa is a quality semi-sweet chocolate bar in a cup. It is not flavored like chocolate — it is chocolate. Their whipped cream was not sweet at all, but that was a welcome, refreshing complement to the richness of the hot cocoa.
Texture: The Bent Spoon’s hot chocolate was super thick and phenomenally creamy. I heard a rumor that if you can’t finish it all (a very real possibility given how rich it is), you can stick it in the fridge for a delicious mousse the next day — and I have to say, I believe it.
Final Thoughts: I also gave the Bent Spoon’s homemade honey marshmallows a try. While they were a perfect soft and spongy texture, they were viscerally sweet with a strong flavor of honey. I wouldn’t recommend biting into them directly because the flavor can be a bit overwhelming, but if you let them melt into your drink, they give it a nice honey undertone. I will definitely be heading back to the Bent Spoon for hot cocoa again, so next time, I’ll give their normal homemade marshmallows a try as well.
Because it’s right there: Starbucks
Flavor: Starbucks hot chocolate is a little more bitter than a lot of the other drinks I reviewed, but it still had a fair bit of chocolaty body to it. You know that it is supposed to be hot chocolate.
Texture: Starbucks hit pretty close to a middle ground on hot cocoa thickness: not as thick as the Bent Spoon but it had quite a bit more substance than Halo Pub. Still, it wasn’t quite hearty enough for my hot cocoa tastes. The good news about Starbucks (as well as a number of other locations in Princeton) is that they offer a wide variety of milk and milk substitute options that you can play with to find a thickness, flavor, and quality that works for you!
Final Thoughts: With all of the fantastic local businesses offering incredible hot cocoa in Princeton, I might not be getting Starbucks hot cocoa again for a while. However, it is nice to know that wherever there is a Starbucks, I will be able to find a pretty decent cup.
From there: PJ’s Pancake House
Flavor: While PJ’s hot chocolate was not aggressively chocolaty, I was not mad about the overall flavor as it was still very present and full. In fact, PJ’s hot cocoa seemed to have notes of citrus and other rich but light flavors that shone through the less intense chocolate taste.
Texture: PJ’s hot chocolate was creamy and full of body. Topped with a sweet dollop of fresh whipped cream, PJ’s hot chocolate was perfectly decadent.
Final Thoughts: While it may feel strange to go to PJ’s just for the hot cocoa, if you happen to be digging into a stack of celebratory end-of-semester pancakes, I’d recommend ordering yourself a cup of cocoa as well.
To wrap things up: Milk & Cookies
Flavor: Milk & Cookies’ hot chocolate was not very chocolaty, but it wasn’t flavorless either. It was much more of a flavored steamed milk than a hot chocolate, but it was still very enjoyable.
Texture Rating: Milk & Cookies’ hot chocolate was frothy and light without being watery. It was a wonderfully just-fine texture.
Final Thoughts: Milk & Cookies’ hot cocoa is what you expect most of the time when you order a cup of hot chocolate. It wasn’t overwhelming, but it is a lovely partner to a decadent s’mores brownie or pumpkin cookie.
Now that the holiday season has officially begun, be sure to give these treats a try, and leave a comment on this article with what you want to see reviewed next!
Sydney Eck is a senior writer for The Prospect and assistant editor for Features who often covers artist profiles and food reviews (founder of Tiger Town Treats). She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Instagram at @sydney.eck.