It’s OK to cheat on your diet with some indulgent chocolate from Riverside Chocolate Factory, in McHenry.
It’s also OK to take a bite of this heavenly chocolate and, without thinking, blurt out the words, “Oh, my goodness.”
This chocolate destination has been around since 1986, and its owners have one goal: satisfy taste buds with fresh, decadent, melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness that’s made with love.
“All of this stuff, I can promise you, was made in the last week,” says chocolatier Charla Ryan, as she’s surrounded by rows and rows of chocolate. “Even in our slow months, product is made daily, and nothing sits for more than two weeks here.”
Perhaps surprisingly, Riverside doesn’t actually make its own chocolate. Instead, it comes from Bloomers Chocolate Co. in Chicago. Chocolate arrives in bricks, and the crew uses tempering kettles, situated in the middle of the kitchen, to melt down the chocolate.
Once the sweet stuff has reached a smooth and creamy consistency, it becomes the base of most everything served in the shop, including peanut butter cups, chocolate-covered bacon and the always popular chocolate-covered strawberries.
“We’re one of the few places that carry chocolate-covered strawberries every day,” says Kari Miller, another chocolatier. “We dip strawberries fresh every morning because that’s what we’re known for.”
Miller and her teammates dip the strawberries by hand, one-by-one, in the kettle before letting them rest on a cookie sheet.
“We probably went through 800 cartons of strawberries on Valentine’s Day,” Miller says with a laugh.
While Miller is dipping strawberries, Ryan is nearby creating chocolate raspberry cups. Each cup starts with three raspberries at the bottom, and she uses a funnel to cover them with chocolate. Her creation is topped with an additional raspberry.
“We don’t have the time to make the chocolate, but we make all of the centers from scratch,” Ryan says. “We also make a butter cream that’s smooth and creamy, and it’s made from fresh fruit. We take oranges and lemons and we zest them to make the cream. We also make our own fruit creams, sponge candy, peanut brittle and toffee.”
In addition to tasting amazing, chocolate also acts as a preservative, Ryan says. So, foods that would otherwise go bad after a few days can thrive for a few weeks.
“If you put an Oreo cookie out, it would get soft and stale after a week or so,” she says. “If you dip it in chocolate, it could last three or four months.”
The chocolate shop started its journey along Riverside Drive in McHenry in 1986, and in 1989 it moved to its current location, 2102 W. Illinois Route 120, on McHenry’s far east side.
If you need help finding Riverside Chocolate Factory, its structure should be a dead giveaway. It looks like an upside-down ice cream cone.
“This building was built in the ’30s, and it was like that in the beginning,” says owner Tabitha Deibler. “There was a creamery in this building before we took it over. I see it as more of a chapel, but you can call it many other things.”
Deibler’s parents, Robert and Diana Hunter, moved their family to the area from New Jersey in the ’60s in search of better-paying jobs.
“My dad had a college degree, but he worked as a maintenance man at night and a fast food server during the day. He wasn’t able to make ends meet, so they moved here where my mom’s family is from,” Deibler says. “As a little boy, my dad spent his time on the boardwalk, and there were always chocolate stands around him, but when he moved to this area, he noticed there weren’t many chocolate places.”
Riverside Chocolate Shop has a lot to offer customers. It’s become a staple in McHenry for 36 years, and people keep coming back for more.
“If a customer can’t make up their mind, our employees ask, ‘What’s your favorite candy bar?’” Ryan says. “After that, no one leaves empty-handed and they get their favorite candy, but with high-quality, deliciously dangerous ingredients.”