CHOCOLAT Restaurant – Wise Words From Its Owner

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.”

Below are a few quotes from a recent interview of Lean Ellis:
  • “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.

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About the Author: HarlemGuy

12 Comments

  1. What a “crab in the barrell” syndrome of people who went to this restaurant. Give the place a break. Any time a Black person open any business you got those “crabbers” to come and “crab” about anything and everything. Dang!

  2. We are recent additions to this neighborhood and we cannot eat at Chocolat because the prices are so high. Rents are lower up here than south of 110th Street, so it is hard to imagine how one justifies Soho prices. The place is often not full and the prices explain why

  3. Oh yeah, my family is from Jamaica too so I love to support my people, but in this case I can’t and won’t!

  4. The owner’s comment about them priding themselves on service is LAUGHABLE! I had a birthday dinner there which was planned days before my actual dinner party and reserved – believe me when I tell you it turned into a fiasco! My party and I waited for over an hour and a half to be seated (the only reason we didn’t leave is because it would have been too inconvenient for everyone – 23 people to leave and then find parking spaces somewhere else). The story is too long to get into but I will say the manager on duty that evening (a brown skinned Carribean woman with glasses) had no idea how to manage and satiate an unhappy crowd, though it was my birthday and I didn’t plan the shindig I wound up getting involved anyway. I happened to know a Harlem politician who was at the restaurant that night who intervened because he saw how we were handled that evening and he knew the owner and the manager. Likewise, we did reach out to and attempted to complain to you Mr. Leon but you never got back to us. Too bad, because of our party of 23 only 2 of those individuals have been back to your restaurant and quite a few of those attendees are tastemakers.
    I would say Black folks cannot get themselves together but the folks at Red Rooster are tight and on point – they can get my money any day, night . . . well you get the point.

    I say avoid Chocolat at all costs, after all eating out is all about the service, let’s face it you can’t go in the kitchen and fetch it yourself and why would you want to

  5. I went there this past summer. The restaurant was not crowded. The service was terrible. We waited almost an hour for our meals. The food was not bad at all and overall decor and ambiance was really nice. If they can work on their service issues, I’m sure they will highly recommended…. but for now, I would stay away.

  6. Good luck to them, but the one time I went the menu and service were awful. It was missing four brunch items, which only had about eight to begin with. The food was delicious though.

  7. Thank you for this. Unfortunately my family and I have not visited Chocolat because they don’t have high chairs and don’t plan to get any – when have stopped by and inquired. This is quite unfortunate as they are located in a very family oriented community where many other restaurants on the gold coast have high chairs and welcome families.

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