Nestled between the shops and restaurants of Main Street is a taste of Belgian artisanry. Belgian Chocolatier Piron, owned by brothers Bob and Fred Piron, has the simplicity of a true, small, European chocolate shop. A few posters, prints and old photographs adorn the walls, but the main event is the two glass display cases, filled with individual, hand-crafted chocolates.
These chocolates are some of the finest you will find in the Chicagoland area and are the product of classical training in a culture that takes its chocolate very seriously. Before helping found Belgian Chocolatiers Piron in 1983, Bob Piron studied as an apprentice in Antwerp under one of Belgium’s most respected chocolatiers. It shows in his chocolates. These aren’t the redundant, mass-produced results of enormous chocolate companies. Each one is made from the highest-quality chocolate imported specially from Belgium. Their presentation is elegant, and their flavors all possess a rich depth that can only be achieved through the kind of meticulous attention the Pirons dedicate to each one.
For instance, one particularly popular chocolate from the shop is a square of semi-sweet chocolate ganache, with a sprinkling of chipotle chili pepper on the top. The incredibly decadent ganache would make an excellent chocolate in and of itself, but the chili pepper gives it a hint of spicy heat that pairs surprisingly well, and keeps the chocolate from being too one-note. The red-orange sprinklings also makes for a simple, but chic presentation.
In the Patrice, a newer addition to the shop, the Pirons manage to deftly harmonize three different-flavored chocolate layers within a single square. Milk chocolate praline, dark chocolate ganache and a coating of milk chocolate make for a luxurious combination. The sweet nuttiness of the praline is a delightful touch that will leave you wishing you had asked for more than just one of these delectable treats.
If you’re one of those people who firmly believes high-end chocolates are nothing without a little eau de vie, the Lion is for you. Available in both milk and dark chocolate, the ganache filling is flavored with cognac, which gives it a decidedly sophisticated vitality. True to its name, the top of the chocolate features a lion from the Belgian coat of arms. Another excellent option, the Cherry Brandy Ganache, takes the brandy ganache combination in a fruitier direction, with a dried cherry in the middle providing a pleasant tartness that pairs excellently with the sweetness in the chocolate and the alcohol.
At the shop, you can pick numerous combinations of these chocolates with boxes ranging from two pieces, to a full pound. The Pirons’ attention to presentation extends to the boxes themselves, which are a lovely gold color paired with your choice of ribbon. If the endless array of choices is overwhelming to you at first, the staff is always more than willing to help and describe different flavors.
If you still need any extra incentive to head to make the two-stop trip to Main Street on the Purple Line, the shop offers a 10 percent WildCARD discount. But be warned, once you’ve experienced this level of chocolate, you probably won’t want to return to that leftover Valentine’s Day Dove Bar stash ever again.
Address: 509 Main St (Between Hinman Ave & Chicago Ave), Evanston, IL 60202
Hours: Mon-Fri: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., Sat: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Sun: closed