Chocolat is a restaurant and lounge that opened in November of 2010. It has become a major dining spot in Harlem (120th Street & Frederick Douglas Blvd). Moca Lounge, Chocolat’s sister spot, is right across the street. The name came about because the owner Leon Ellis loves chocolate.
Leon is of Jamaican descent has a degree in Food Science & Nutrition from Tuske gee University and also studied Agriculture. He is an entrepreneur. Leon also owns Harlem Underground; a clothing, T-shirt store that specializes in personalized embroidery on 125th Street. Leon is also about to open Honeycomb Burger just next door to Chocolat which will employ another 40 workers. “Five years from now I see myself with a minimum of 10 restaurants in urban areas. I see us employing a couple hundred employees. I want to run well established restaurants. I am open to possibilities. In this business, its not about me, its how you affect people’s lives, its about making a mark.”
- “Our demographic is that of urban, educated professionals and people who fall within that demographic, anyone from 21 to 60. We attract a varied cross-section of these people and our menu reflect that,” noted Leon. “Its very interested how guests react when they discover that this establishment is Black owned. People take it personally. People of Caribbean descent take a personal liking to the restaurant. That makes me feel great. It sends chills to my body, because of the reputation that we cannot work together. Once they know that we are Black owned, they turn out in droves. I’m very happy about that. People come from all over the country; Houston, Dallas and Washington. They feel an amazing sense of pride, and, they want us to open similar restaurants in their towns. Of course, that would take a tremendous amount of planning and financial resources to do that. It makes me feel there is a significant level of contentment and success of our people feeling great about themselves. It shows the possibilities of holding each other and working together – its open.” Leon spoke on instances where mothers and elders emphasize to their young that this restaurant is OWNED by Black people. “That’s the message, we impact people’s lives. We are changing and impacting their thought process – If you work hard and be humble in everything you do, you can achieve success.”
- “This is an emerging area in Harlem, it was designated to be `Restaurant Row’ on the west side, with the resurgence that started in Harlem. We were the first to open in the vicinity, because nobody wanted to come over here. When we came it was nothing, people thought we’d lost our minds when we opened cause it was not a pretty sight,” recalled Leon. “We started Restaurant Row and now business is good. I think because, as I said, when people realized its Black owned, they took it personally. Every other ethnic group hire their own, so we feel we have to hire people in our community. That’s a role we play in our community, its our responsibility.”
- “We over extend ourselves in delivering services and we take service very seriously. The food is great but the service is more important. The staff is trained to give customers the highest level of respect. We immediately let our guests know its not just the food; its the overall experience.”
Chocolat seats 120. It is open for lunch, brunch and dinner seven days a week. Brunch is served on Saturdays and Sundays. The restaurant serves until 2am on Friday and Saturday nights.