Mindy’s Hot Chocolate

Interior of Hot Chocolate, 1747 N Damen Avenue

Alison Holmes

Bucktown is known for its eclectic and trendy music, fashion, and food—and Mindy’s Hot Chocolate delivers on all levels. Located on Damen Avenue on Chicago’s north side, Hot Chocolate is the epitome of decadent indulgence. The contemporary artisan-American restaurant offers upscale yet casual dining with a variety of seasonal menus for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch.

The restaurant prides itself on giving guests a special dining experience from start to finish—including a comfortable and relaxing atmosphere, exceptional service and amazing food. Interior décors feature a modern, industrial-style design with exposed brick, dark wood-work, clean lines, wood-beamed ceilings, local artwork and a rich color palate of deep chocolates and tans. A sleek, streamlined bar offers full menu service for those looking for a casual dinner, sweet treat or after dinner drink. The warm and inviting atmosphere, neighborhood charm and intoxicating aromas of Hot Chocolate are enough to enchant even the harshest critics.

Owner, Executive Chef Mindy Segal

Since its inception in 2005, Hot Chocolate has become a fixture of the local Chicago dining scene. The decadent cuisine is a created with high quality, locally sourced ingredients. However, in order to understand the creative menu, one must understand its creator.

Owner and Executive Chef Mindy Segal’s passion for her craft is undeniable. No stranger to the Chicago restaurant scene, the three-time James Beard Award nominee for Outstanding Pastry Chef prides herself (as well as her staff) on not only being a master of her craft, but for also fully immersing herself into her greatest loves, food and cooking.

The cornerstone of the menu, and the restaurant itself, is Segal’s use of local artisan farmers, brewers and wine makers. The menu at Hot Chocolate changes with the seasons to ensure that diners get the freshest ingredients to guarantee the best final product. “We make everything from scratch, and try to buy whole animals [to utilize all the parts]….we like to use small producers—preferably local—and we’re very seasonal. I’ve been cooking like that my entire career,” said Segal.

Hot Chocolate’s new head chef Aric Miech is also passionate about creating great food from local sources. “I love it. I get to work on my craft every day and teach people what I’ve learned. During the winter time we don’t get to go to the market as much as the spring and summer, so we use a lot of mushrooms, squashes, root vegetables and grains…but being able to go to the market and meet these farmers is super important. It’s a great opportunity for me. It’s easy to forget where some of the food comes from,” said Miech.

The use of local, seasonal products not only creates great food, it really supports and gives back to the community. Segal makes her commitment to her skill and community very clear. “I’m going to give my guests the best product that I personally can, and I’m going to strive for excellence,” said Segal. And that she does—the proof is in the pudding, so to speak.

Hot Chocolate’s menu features a variety of sweet and savory items including, appetizers, salads, gourmet sandwiches, entrées, cheeses and desserts. The artisan fare is creative and unique. Each dish is hand-crafted and is given just as much time, energy and effort as every other menu item.

Classic entrées include a grilled Kobe flank steak with roasted pumpkin puree and a confit of fingerling potatoes and house-made giardiniera; Gunthrop Farm seared duck breast with a Brussels sprout and bacon hash; and homemade macaroni and cheese made with Rothkase gruyere and Carr Valley mammoth Cheddar.

“Mindy has kinda changed my way of thinking a little bit,” said Miech. “Artisan cooking is very…uh…you don’t play with the food that much. You let the food speak for itself,” said Miech. And that it does.

Chocolate #1

Perhaps best known for its innovative, artfully crafted desserts, Hot Chocolate serves up an extensive cheese and sweets menu capable of pleasing anyone’s tastes. Segal’s signature desserts include Chocolate #1—a warm chocolate ganache and meringue tart with a chocolate soufflé center, salted caramel ice cream and house-made pretzels; Banana’s and Butterscotch—banana brioche bread pudding, banana sherbet, malted liquid butterscotch, cardamom cream and banana cake cannoli; and Warm Brioche Doughnuts, served with hot fudge. Another must-try, and the restaurant’s namesake, is a gourmet spin on classic Hot Chocolate, which is available in six varieties. An array of artisan beer, wine, ports and champagne compliment and enhance any dish or dessert.

Mindy Segal truly is a master of her craft, and it shows in every dish, dessert and detail of Hot Chocolate. With menu prices ranging from $7–$27 Hot Chocolate is a must-try. So if you’re out on the town, want a relaxed dinner or just love great food, this is the place for you. Don’t take my word for it, try it.

Check It Out: Hot Chocolate

1747 North Damen Avenue

www.hotchocolatechicago.com

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