I’m always looking for a good burger and a good dessert, and I’ve read excellent reviews of both at Mindy’s Hot Chocolate. In particular, Mindy Segal is known for being one of the best pastry chefs in Chicago, perhaps even the entire country, so I’ve been meaning to make my way out to her Bucktown restaurant for quite some time. I enjoyed my meal there during Restaurant Week, so I planned a couple additional return trips later in the year.
I first ordered the burger – a classic with sharp cheese, good bacon, and a bun with both poppy seeds and sesame seeds, which gives it just a hint of a twist. The burger, a perfect rare, isn’t the least bit greasy. Not really juicy so much as extremely tender, similar to the texture of the burger at David Burke’s Primehouse, which is likely my favorite burger in Chicago. The sharpness of the cheddar obscures the meat a little, but the overall burger is delicious.
My first return visit to Hot Chocolate was in the summer, when peach desserts were on menus across the city. The peaches and cream dessert has a base similar to a key lime pie, with a thick, soft crust, almost like a crumbly graham cake. The sherbet is a lovely quenelle, but it’s not as intensely peach-flavored as the peach dessert at Balena was. The poached peach is really nice, though. Although it is a nice dessert, I preferred the fantastic peach dessert at Balena, which was also significantly less expensive.
While I was at Hot Chocolate the first time, I learned about a fried chicken dinner they offer on Fridays – eight pieces, plus a biscuit and potato salad, for $20. Unfortunately, the fried chicken is disappointing. I initially liked the almost tempura-like batter, but it slips off. The batter is a little blonde, but it’s crispy. Despite being advertised as eight pieces, the pieces are quite small, closer to drumettes than legs. More importantly, the chicken isn’t fried nearly long enough: although the outside is crispy, there’s an unpleasant inner layer of undercooked batter. The biscuit is light and fluffy, but it’s a fairly standard baking powder biscuit. The honey on top of the butter for the biscuit is tasty but not mind-blowing. The pesto potato salad, made of firm fingerling potatoes, is bright with dill.
I ended my fried chicken dinner with a sampling of their cookies, each one dollar. The butterscotch cookie is crisp and thin, with toasty, nutty undertones. It has a distinctly sugary taste. The smoked sugar and fudge thumbprint has a cocoa sugar cookie base with a smooth filling similar to a ganache. Although I don’t taste the smoke, I like this cookie best. The raspberry rugelach is tender, with slightly tart fruit and a little crunch from the almonds.
Overall, I think the prices at Mindy’s Hot Chocolate are a little higher than they’re worth, although the service is nice. Each time I’ve returned, I’ve been a little less impressed. I’d still like to try the hot chocolate for which the restaurant is named, but for my money, I’d rather go to other restaurants.
Mindy’s Hot Chocolate – 1747 N. Damen Ave., Chicago