Chasing the (sweet) dragon at San Francisco's candy stores
DEATH BEFORE DIET San Francisco has a hell of a sweet tooth, judging by all the dessert-themed trucks, artesinal chocolate shops, and curious ice cream flavors dribbling all over everything. For fans of sour and gummy candy who'd prefer a slightly more old-timey experience than the aisles of Walgreens can provide, we also have quite a few candy-focused shops. We sidestepped the prodigious chocolate offerings (for the most part) and tested treats at four of 'em.
Fiona's Sweetshoppe Tucked into a teeny FiDi storefront, Fiona's maximizes its snug space with four rows of shelves lined with candy-filled jars. The slogan here is "bewitching candy," and the selection (much of it imported from Europe and the UK) doesn't disappoint. Customers can browse a selection of UK candy bars (Cadbury purists rejoice), buy scoops in bulk, or pick up pre-made, ribbon-tied bags of the shop's most popular wares.
We sampled: Australian Mango Licorice (Fiona's has a large selection of licorice in different flavors and shapes; this variety is super-soft, chewy, and fruity — and vegan); Lemon Fizzballs (the favorite of the three: lemon drops with a powdery, sour-then-sweet coating); and, bending the chocolate rule a bit, Chocolate Limes (individually-wrapped, citrus hard candy with a dab of chocolate inside). 214 Sutter, SF; www.fionassweetshoppe.com 
The Candy Store Russian Hill's beacon of sugary goodness went national, briefly, thanks to a pop-up stint in Target stores earlier this year. Locals can still hit up the airy space for stylishly packaged indulgences (dark chocolate sea salt caramels are a favorite), lollipops (in sizes ranging from "oversized" to "Godzilla-sized"), nostalgic chocolate bars (Nut Goodies, Mallo Cups), and ... ohhhh yeah ... jars of sour and gummy goodness.
We tried: Sour Skulls (imported from Sweden, home of extreme metal and, apparently, extremely sour candy); Cinnamon Bears (more sweet than hot); Gummi Filled Whales (marshmallow-y and adorable); and one Gummi Fried Egg (a fruit-flavored conversation piece). 1507 Vallejo, SF; www.thecandystoresf.com 
Miette Miette peddles its picture-perfect baked goods at San Francisco's Ferry Building, Oakland's Jack London Square, and Larkspur's Marin County Mart. But candy fans taking a cake break should make a beeline to the Hayes Valley location (449 Octavia, SF). While the retro-styled space (with super-cute seasonal window displays) does feature a pastry case with Miette's famed cupcakes, cakes, and macarons — the main attraction is pretty obvious: fancy chocolate bars, decadent malt balls, and jars upon jars of bite-sized sweets.
We tasted: Butter Waffles (waffle-shaped hard candy with a refined butterscotch flavor); Sour Apple Belts (a childhood classic); and Lemon Verbena Drops (is it weird to call a candy "sophisticated"? Because these are.) Various Bay Area locations, SF; www.miette.com  Shaw's San Francisco Just two Muni stops from the Castro is West Portal, with its Main Street USA vibe. Situated under a red-and-white awning, Shaw's — around since 1931 — needs not try to emulate an old-school candy shop, since it already is one. No swish sweets here; in addition to ice cream, fudge, and chocolate truffles, Shaw's stocks novelty items like Pop Rocks and mounds of sold-by-weight gummies and sour candy, including recognizable items like Swedish Fish and Sour Patch Kids. We inhaled: sour apples, cherries, peaches, and watermelon slices (all fresh, flavorful, soft, and chewy), with a few chocolate-covered gummy bears (a best-seller) for good measure. 122 West Portal, SF; www.shawssf.com