Condor Chocolates in Athens, Ga., on Friday, February 3, 2017. (Photo by Cory A. Cole)

Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be the only day of the year you indulge this chocolate addiction. On July 7, World Chocolate Day is celebrated in the minds, hearts and stomachs of chocolate lovers all over the world. For those who find themselves fantasizing about the gooey chocolate chip cookies and fresh, fudgy brownies your grandma used to make on the daily, this holiday is for you.

Though your grandma might not live in Athens, here are the five best spots in Athens to satisfy any chocolate cravings you have on this glorious day. We even included vegan and gluten free options to make sure sweet tooths of all kinds are satisfied. 

Condor Chocolates

One of many local shops in Five Points, Condor Chocolates boasts a wide array of chocolate and delectable treats to fulfill every craving.

Ranging from sipping chocolate to their signature chocolate-caramel sea salted brownies, customers are never at a loss for finding something to satisfy their sweet tooth.

The brownies are one of their most popular chocolate items and are baked in a muffin pan to ensure customers are always getting equal amounts of soft, fudgy cake and crust, said owner Peter Dale.

Another favorite is Condor’s chocolate truffles, available in mocha, mango habanero and a vegan bourbon.

“While you can eat a whole brownie, you probably don’t want to eat 10 truffles just because it’s a more intense flavor,” Dale said. “ With a truffle, you sort of savor it and let it hang out on your palate and absorb all the chocolate flavors.”

A bean-to-bar establishment, Condor imports its cocoa from Ecuador and roasts and processes the beans in Athens.

“[My] mom’s from Ecuador ... and we wanted to have a deeper connection with where our mom’s from and share some of that side of our heritage with people in Athens,” Dale said.

2. The Grit

Known for its exclusively vegetarian menu, with many items also being vegan and gluten free, the Grit is a Prince Avenue staple. However, the restaurant also has an assortment of desserts and, among them, the Vegan Chocolate Death cake.

“It’s got a little bit of a scary name but when you taste it you understand because it’s so rich and delicious,” said Jennifer Keene, The Grit’s bakery manager for the last five years. “It’s made with fresh coffee that’s our own blend ... and we always have that in stock; I make tens of thousands of them a year.”

Among other vegan options are their popular Lil Jim’s Pudding Cake, made with chocolate cake, homemade vanilla pastry cream and topped with a whipped cream frosting, as well as the Joyous Almond pie.

According to Keene, The Grit has recently expanded their gluten free options to appeal to a larger customer base.

“The gluten free items are a little more work but we’re happy to do that because we try to make our customers as happy as possible,” Keene said. “One of our bakers has celiac ... and has really worked hard to keep the gluten free and celiac community as happy and safe as possible.”

Grinding the gluten free flour in house, they offer a Joyous Almond pie, which features a coconut crust and homemade vegan chocolate filling, a chocolate lavender cake and even a wildly popular coconut chocolate vegan ice cream.

On various weekends throughout the month, The Grit also offers a $2 vegan donut selection with brunch.

3. Cakewalk

A recent addition to the Athens food and bakery scene, Cakewalk took up residence on the first floor of a South Milledge house built in 1910.

Among its many delectable chocolatey treats are cakes such as a chocolate-chocolate cake, an Oreo cake and an Almond Joy cake for coconut lovers. The bakery also boasts a wide selection of premier boxed chocolates, owner Jennifer Mitchell said.

Another chocolate treat for those who crave caffeine is their espresso shooter. A sugar cone lined with white chocolate and filled with bakery-brewed espresso, the bitterness of the espresso is cut by the subtle sweetness of the cone and chocolate.

While customers enjoy everything Cakewalk has to offer, a customer favorite is the chocolate-chocolate cake, Mitchell said.

Decadent and sweet, the rich cake is topped with chocolate icing and either chocolate candies or fudge.

Mitchell herself does not make the bakery items, however they are still made from scratch by surrounding bakeries.

“I go outside of Athens to bakeries where they make their yummy goodness from scratch and pick them up and do special orders from there,” Mitchell said.

4. Bee’s Knees

Located farther away from the downtown scene, Bee’s Knees Bakery & Gifts can be found on Epps Bridge Parkway near Trader Joe's.

Offering a wide array of cakes, cookies and cupcakes, they also have a lunch menu for those who need more than a sweet treat. Highlights on their menu include chocolate covered strawberries, available to order year-round, and cake pops.

Customers also have the option to customize cakes with chocolatey goodness such as Nutella icing or German chocolate batter.

5. Gigi’s Cupcakes

This nation-wide franchise has made a home for itself on West Broad Street and offers many chocolate cupcakes for those seeking a sweet treat on this special day.

Gigi’s features a wide selection of chocolate cupcakes such as their chocolate salted caramel, chocolate peanut butter pretzel and chocolate chip cookie dough.

Their most popular cupcake, according to assistant Samantha Clark, is their Midnight Magic, which is a devil’s food cake baked with dark chocolate chips. Another variation of the same cupcake, the White Midnight Magic, is topped with a cream cheese frosting while their classic flavor is topped with chocolate buttercream.

“We have our Gigi’s secret recipes that we hold really close to our hearts and everybody loves coming in,” Clark said. “If you go to Publix, you do get really good cake, but you don’t get the Gigi’s experience, so I think that’s what makes us special."

Clark’s personal favorite is the Gluten Free Triple Chocolate Torte which is a flourless and dairy free cake that reminds her of a brownie.

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