"Are you sure this is it?" That's probably what most people say to each other when driving up to Chocolate Maven for the first time. This exquisite bakery and café is completely out of place in a warehouse space next to an auto repair shop. But don't be deterred; just drive past all of the banged up Toyotas and park in the back. Once inside you'll immediately forget Maven's industrial milieu. The smell of baking sweets makes it hard not to drool before you're seated. Downstairs, the front room can be a little too busy, so try to get a table next to the big windows in the back room where you can observe the bakery workers like fish in a giant aquarium. Or climb the spiral staircase (warning: don't wear a skirt if you're shy) to the upstairs dining room where warm yellow walls keep your eye off the tattered carpet. Once you're seated, order pretty much anything on the menu-it's all good. The garlic rosemary french fries are crispy and perfectly seasoned. The chipotle chicken salad is just as sweet and tangy when made with tofu. Sandwiches come on excellent house-baked sandwich bread or focaccia; pizzas are thin-crusted and topped with just the right amount of toppings. Whatever you do, you must save room for dessert. The huge chocolate brownie covered in chocolate sauce and whipped cream is wickedly indulgent. If you're too full, choose one from the long list of gourmet hot chocolates.
821 W. San Mateo Road, 984-1980. Breakfast and lunch
Monday through Friday. Brunch Saturday and Sunday. $