So if you read the Time Out Chicago piece we linked the other day, you know that Mindy Segal came close to moving out of Hot Chocolate’s space into a bigger one in response to a sense that her seven-year-old Bucktown restaurant had sort of fallen behind the times epitomized by the big, brassy restaurants on Randolph. In the end she didn’t… but the problems she was responding to didn’t go away, and even finally winning a James Beard award for best pastry chef isn’t enough on its own to make a familiar restaurant new again. Now Eater has more details on how Segal has rethought her restaurant to make it fresh again— and starting at lunch tomorrow, you can see and eat it for yourself.
The first thing you notice is a name change— actually we noticed that in news reports on the Beard awards, that it was suddenly “Mindy’s Hot Chocolate.” In fact it’s “Mindy’s Hot Chocolate: Craft Food and Drink,” and it’s the latter part that suggests that she’s changing her menu and approach to, perhaps, be a little more like small plates places like The Bristol up the street. A more rustic-industrial room has been reconfigured to include a 12-person chef’s table, and will be host to a menu broken up into “Jars,” “Plates,” “Bowls,” “Salads” and “Sandwiches.” Desserts will be less composed and “precious” and more direct, with a wider variety of ways to experience them: a retail area up front, assembled-to-your-specs ice cream sandwiches from the coffee bar and a roving cookie cart selling cookies to tables, dim-sum style.
We’re curious to see how all this works in reality, but we’re certainly intrigued by the way Segal is reinventing her place not merely by making it bigger and more sceney, but with new experiences you can’t get anywhere else.