Feb. 9, 2024 By Seán Ó Briain
A new dessert bar specializing in a range of chocolate-themed treats has opened its doors in the heart of Astoria.
The Chocolate House, which operates a total of six stores across New York and New Jersey, opened at 25-88 Steinway St. on Jan. 31.
The store acts as a catch-all dessert bar, serving crepes, waffles, milkshakes, ice cream, cakes, chocolate-dipped fruits, and a wide range of coffees.
Hazem Asad and his partner Rashad Alawi opened their first Chocolate House store in Franklin, New Jersey, several years ago and have set about quietly expanding the company, opening three more stores in New Jersey and adding an express location in the Bronx last year.
Asad and Alawi sought to open a store in their native Queens and acquired a space on Steinway Street toward the end of 2023, quickly converting the old Milk & Cream Cereal Bar into the latest Chocolate House location.
Asad, who was raised in Kew Gardens, said he was unfamiliar with Astoria when setting up in the neighborhood but added that members of the local community have been incredibly supportive over the past few months.
“I know nobody around here,” Asad said. “I was born and raised in Queens but not from this part. All of the groups and local businesses have been very welcoming if we need any help. It’s been great.”
Asad stated that milkshakes, crepes, and waffles are the most popular items on the menu at the Chocolate House, pointing in particular to the Ferrero Rocher Shake, the House Special Crepe – consisting of strawberries, bananas, and Nutella – and the Triple-Chocolate Waffle.
He also said chocolate-dipped strawberries are a major seller at all Chocolate House locations.
“Strawberry dips is a big seller. People love strawberries dipped in fresh Belgian milk chocolate right on the spot in front of them,” Asad said. “That’s not something that’s on every street corner.”
Asad believes the Chocolate House is unique among New York dessert bars in that it offers a huge selection of sweet treats, rather than specializing in one specific area.
“There was nothing like this in New York when we started,” he said. “If you wanted a crepe you would go to a crepe shop. If you wanted a waffle, you’d go to a place that does waffles. If you wanted an ice cream, you’d go to an ice cream shop.”
“We were able to add a little bit of all of those into one business and it worked very well. The first concept worked well and we’ve been perfecting it since then and started expanding.”
He said he has avoided any major grand opening celebrations at the new location out of respect for the ongoing conflict in Palestine, where his parents are from.
In any case, Asad said he prefers to grow his stores through word of mouth, stating that he believes in the product that he offers.
“We hope to spread it by word of mouth. When people come in, they always come back and they always tell their friends.
“We don’t push too hard because we believe in the product we sell. The customer will come little by little. It’s a slow build.”