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Hot, Hot, Hot

“Tis the season” is an understatement when it comes to the most indulgent way to warm up in the Windy City. For those of you who are unaware of what exactly that means, look no further than Bucktown’s “Hot Chocolate.”
Always a fan of any restaurant whose dessert menu is as long (or longer, for that matter) than their entrée list, my maiden trip to Hot Chocolate was inevitable. And thanks to the recent accolade chef/owner, Mindy Segal, scooped from the coveted James Beard Foundation – the 2012 Outstanding Pastry Chef in the Country – it’s no wonder why the savory-to-sweet ratio is so rich.The tatted up, pint-sized pastry chef has recently been popping up everywhere from The Today Show to alongside Martha Stewart and her 25-year track record includes stints at the famed Charlie Trotter’s and Spago. But what about her menu? In short: approachable, delicious, sinful, re-created.
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Last summer, Mindy renovated her urban café (established in 2005), renamed it “Hot Chocolate Craft Food & Drink,” and rewrote her simple, contemporary menu. Offerings include staples like Mac & Cheese and a New England crab cake. As for me, I enjoyed a burger worth living for topped with bacon, a fried egg, and four-year aged cheddar cheese. The mini ketchup and mustard squeeze-bottles were also a nice touch.

burger

 

When the entrées cleared, it was time to choose a sweet finish: a cheesecake, doughnuts, or bread pudding? Her beloved cookies? One of seven signature hot chocolates?  Something else? As you can see, the most sinful thing about her robust dessert menu is not saving room for it. Alas, I landed on the “Black & Tan” – a piping cup of her original “medium hot chocolate” poured on top of a heaping glob of hot fudge, alongside a snappy homemade marshmallow and a teaspoon for mixing. Heaven on earth.

 

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“Black & Tan”

 

For those bold enough, skip the selection process and go straight to “The Study.” This is Mindy’s spread of five sample-sized desserts united by a single common ingredient, a flavor of the season. Priced at $15, this is the route to go for those with a serious sweet tooth.

 

"The Study"

“The Study”

 

Surprisingly, some of the best features to this whole set up don’t have anything to do with the dining experience at all. They are: the hot chocolate to-go and the walk-up coffee counter for your morning latte. Take that, Starbucks.

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The restaurant, albeit on the small side, gladly accepts reservations and even has a 12-seat chef’s table located in close proximity to Mindy’s pastry station. They are open early in the morning, for lunch and dinner service, as well as for brunch on Sundays.

Emily Belden

Emily Belden

everyone's favorite no-one | nerd trapped in a cool kid's body | writer, blogger | cooler online than in real life | doesn't come home to stuffed animals |

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