If you are not Ubering to Mott St., I would highly recommend that you take some time to explore the vibrant neighborhood of Wicker Park before heading to the restaurant. You will go off onto a residential street with cool-looking townhouses, feel slightly confused as to where exactly this restaurant is, and arrive at what seems to be in the middle of nowhere. Mott St. sits by itself amidst the grey, unassuming street, a small but colorful hut-like restaurant that beckons you to go over and check it out. On a closer look, the exterior decorations of the restaurant seem to me that whoever designed it was trying to blend Korean characters, bubblegum colors and ambiguous cartoon figures all into one confusing collage. Cute, but leaves many questions hanging.
Named on Michelin’s Bib Gourmand and its executive chef nominated for a James Beard Award, Mott St. came into my awareness through a Thrillist article, where it got ranked as the best burger in Chicago, even above Au Cheval’s. (Remember when Au Cheval was the shit? I guess it still is.) Slowly and gradually, I had a couple other people recommending Mott. St’s burger to me as well. I got the impression that their burger is like one of those unsung heroes, who is overshadowed by a former star and is struggling to gain its own recognition. I came to testify whether or not their burgers are legendary.
An Asian fusion restaurant that serves up dishes in small plates, Mott St. offers a menu that is mainly Korean-inspired, but also a little bit of everything else – Chinese, Thai, Japanese. I was slightly relieved to find that the interior design isn’t blatantly try-hard Asian-fusion – a.k.a. no random Chinese characters or curtains with Japanese art on them. There were red lanterns artfully strung on the ceiling, and I dig that.
On their brunch menus, you can find classic brunch items with an Asian twist, such as Black Bean Shrimp and Grits and Eggplant Benedict, which uses onsen eggs instead of traditional poached eggs. Their seasonal and year-long cocktails are creative concoctions that involve green tea, cocoa nibs and black sesame. Check out their Instagram for updates on their drinks and food menu. They will make you drool.
Mott Burger ($14)
A beautiful, monstrous mess to sink your teeth into, the Mott Burger comes with double chuck patties and sweet potato frizzles. The meat is juicy, fresh and lightly charred on the sides. The cultural fusion comes in the form of miso butter and hoisin aioli, carefully slathered on in thin layers. A delicious burger no doubt, but I would not go so far as saying that it is the best in town. The issue for me is always the buns. Personally I am a fan of sturdy buns that can hold up the weight of the meat, but the buns here are on the softer and sweeter side. I also wished there was more of the Asian-flavored condiments because what little was on the burger made me want to beg for more.
Note: the Mott Burger is available at the bar only during non-brunch hours.
Kalbi & Eggs ($15)
A play on the classic corned beef and hash dish, Korean style marinated beef short ribs are used instead, with two eggs and kimchi potato hash on the side. Love the crispy potatoes in a spicy, kimchi sauce, but I am not entirely impressed by the dry and overcooked grilled meat that come in three meager pieces. This dish falls flat in terms of flavors and portions.
Thai-style rice porridge, with issan sausage, fish sauce and ginger. I grew up eating congee cooked the Cantonese way, and have never had any other styles. I was surprised by how much I liked this – each spoonful of porridge was like consuming soft and thick fluffs of cloud, well-infused with the ingredients’ flavors. The light notes and texture made this dish a nice way to top off the meal.
This place strikes a good a balance between executing Asian and Western flavors, and I will definitely make a point to come back for dinner and their drinks. Final verdict for the burger is that although it is a burger that deserves all the respect and recognition it should, competition out there is tough and it is hard to say that any one of them is the best.
Phone: (773) 687-9977
Address: 1401 N. Ashland Ave
Hours: Tues–Thurs 6–10PM, Bar till 11PM; Fri–Sat 6–11PM, Bar till 12AM
Reservations are accepted.