Mini Mott: A slice of Americana with an Asian twist
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In bustling Logan Square, where there are countless options for high-end dining, you might have missed a fast-casual option tucked away on a less traversed stretch of Logan Boulevard.
Chef-owner Edward Kim opened Mini Mott, an offshoot of his popular Mott St. in Noble Square, last summer.
Kim, who garnered a James Beard nomination for his now closed Ruxbin, runs both businesses with his wife, Jenny, and sister Vicki Kim. The trio met fourth partner Nate Chung at a dinner party in 2009. Chung joined the team a year later.
At Mott St., the burger developed a huge cult following. The problem was that the kitchen wasn’t designed to keep up with the demand.
“We don’t even have a flattop grill there, which is essential for the type of burger,” Edward Kim said. “Given the crowds and fanfare we were getting it made sense to open a location that basically featured [the burger] and was built around that.”
Mini Mott’s bright space is modern and airy with neon signs and whimsical splashes of orange and pink. The back wall is lined with toy vending machines that take Japanese yen. You can get exchange dollars for the foreign currency at the register.
“When we first hit the scene [with Ruxbin in 2010] we didn’t know many other Asian-Americans in the Chicago restaurant scene who weren’t [running] that typical sushi or Thai food joints,” said Vicki Kim. “That’s [needed and great] but for us, we are just as much Asian as we are American.”
That duality permeates the team’s approach to ambiance, hospitality and food.
“A lot of the food here brings back food memories from childhood,” said Edward Kim, who grew up in suburban Long Grove but would often visit extended family in South Korea, where he ate snacks and sandwiches at an uncle’s bakery.
Growing up with rice, kimchi and bologna, gyros and deep-dish pizza, Edward Kim wanted to re-interpret the classic American soda fountain with an homage to his uncle’s bakery in a mash-up of Korean, Japanese and Chinese flavors.
Menu highlights include Korean-style wings, brunch tacos, hand-cut fries, burgers — including a vegetarian option made with jackfruit — and a jumbo Vienna hot dog.
I gravitated to the crustless, perfectly packaged “Katsu Sando” — made with panko-crusted chicken thigh, homemade tonkatsu sauce and squared brioche. A half pound of shrimp dusted ever so lightly in rice flour are fried and served up crispy and juicy. A side of blistered shishito peppers were my preferred side during my latest visit at Mini Mott, 3057 W. Logan Blvd.
For dessert, there’s a milkshake blended with a slice of homemade cake (flavors rotate from carrot cake to hummingbird). There’s also the fish-shaped taiyaki cone filled with traditional sweet red beans and soft serve ice cream.
While the owners take quality and taste seriously, they don’t take themselves too seriously. They want Mini Mott to be fun and are keeping their ears open to what their customers want.
“We want to make people happy, comfortable. Food should just taste good, shouldn’t be too intellectual and should comfort you,” Chung said.