Open since: Feb. 9
Location: Chocolate Perks is on Main Street in downtown Duluth.
Hours: The establishment's posted hours are
7 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays,
8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 6 p.m. Sundays, but Chocolate Perks stays open until customers leave.
Owner: Duluth resident Marsha Bomar, a Duluth City Council member, is a planner and engineer and owner of Street Smarts, which is next door to Chocolate Perks. In and out during weekdays, Bomar can usually be found regularly chatting with Chocolate Perks' customers in the evenings and on weekends.
Atmosphere: The entrance to Chocolate Perks boasts a gift from Ken Hardeman, owner of Hardeman Fine Art Glass, which is just down the street from the establishment: two custom-made stained glass windows depicting a cup of coffee. Just inside is a coffee shop-like atmosphere offering high-top and regular table seating, as well as two plush loveseats where customers can lounge while sipping their coffee drinks or enjoying one of the many delectable dessert offerings. A rack next to the ordering counter holds board games - Scrabble, Monopoly Junior and Pay Day are a few of the games customers can play - and reading materials. Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" and Tom Clancy's "The Teeth of the Tiger" are just two of the selections that fill one of the rack's shelves.
The walls inside Chocolate Perks are filled with artwork that will change from month to month. September's featured artist is watercolorist Karen Newell Blaesing, a Virginia resident whose brother-in-law owns the cabinet shop down the street from Chocolate Perks. On the first Friday in October, the watercolor paintings will be replaced by the art of Gwinnett resident and comic book writer Kyle Puttkammer, creator of the "Galaxy Man" comic book series and owner of comic book stores in Buford and Lawrenceville.
Menu: Chocolate Perks was started from Bomar's passion for chocolate. Not wanting to limit the scope of her business, she added coffee to the menu as well as breakfast and lunch items. After the business opened, lunch extended into dinner.
Breakfast items are typically served from 7 a.m. to about 10 a.m. and include muffins, bagels, breakfast sandwiches made with a combination of sausage, egg and cheese, and specialty pancakes, which Bomar said are so tasty many customers don't even need syrup.
Lunch and dinner items include sandwiches, panninis, wraps and salads. The Out of this World Chicken Salad, made from a Chocolate Perks secret recipe, is a popular choice. The chicken salad, made with celery, cranberries and grapes, is also available with roasted almonds and is served on a croissant with lettuce and tomato.
The Main Street Cuban is another popular selection. The pressed sandwich is made with smoked pulled pork, smoked ham, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard.
For the selective customers, Bomar offers a "build your own" salad option. Similar to sushi menus offered in Japanese restaurants, customers can request a salad order form and specify their own ingredients, choosing from a variety of meats, cheeses, nuts and vegetables to create custom-made salads.
In addition to its hot and cold coffee drinks, Chocolate Perks serves wine and beer. For the specialty margarita, Bomar has foregone liquor and instead uses wine.
For dessert, two glass display cases are filled with mouth-watering selections of chocolates, truffles, cupcakes and pastries. Bomar's favorite truffle is the Mayan, which is made with ancho chile pepper, a dried pepper, and spicy cinnamon.
Things you might not know: Chocolate Perks offers live music each Friday night. Next up on Sept. 18 is Phretnoise, a cover band playing tunes form the 1970s and '80s and a regular act at the Duluth establishment.
SideBar: On the menu
· Old School PB&J - A traditional peanut butter sandwich with a choice of strawberry or grape jelly served on toasted bread, $4.75
· Runaway BBQ Pork - Smoked pulled pork with sweet barbecue sauce and pickles on a toasted roll, $6.75
· Duluth Deli Delight - Served plain or grilled with smoked turkey, roast beef, smoked ham, lettuce, tomato, mayo and mustard and Monterey jack cheese drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette on a hoagie roll, $7.25
· Towne Green - A salad made with romaine, cheddar jack, tomatoes, croutons and choice of dressing, $4.75