At first glance, Hermosa, located in the Northwest Side neighborhood of the same name, looks like any Chicago mom-and-pop hot dog stand — burgers, wieners, Italian beef — but those standbys are arguably the least interesting things owner Ethan Lim puts on bread. Consider his moo ping sandwich ($8.95): An homage to Thai street-food skewers, it consists of chunks of char-grilled pork shoulder dusted with toasted rice powder and topped with cabbage slaw and a sweet, funky fish sauce called nam jim jaew, all of it on a French roll from Berwyn’s Turano Baking Co. Or take his Chinese-Mexican version of a Philly cheese steak ($9.50): rib eye marinated in soy sauce, rice wine, and tons of black pepper and covered with poblano peppers, onions, melted Chihuahua cheese, and a slather of housemade garlic mayo.
Lim, who grew up in a Chinese American family and has done stints at Next and the Aviary, drew on his fine-dining background to reimagine a dozen or so beloved Asian dishes as sandwiches. Hot-dog-stand classics are all well and good, he says, but “I get bored with a static menu.” His only sandwich-invention parameters? “Every sandwich has to have a balance of texture, salt, acid, fat, and depth.”
Fancy some Korean barbecue? Lim dresses spicy Korean-style pork with pickled daikon, cucumber, and gochujang-miso mayo ($8.95). For a Cambodian chicken sandwich ($8.95), he marinates thighs in kroeung — a paste of lemongrass, garlic, galangal, turmeric, and makrut lime leaf — then fries them and tops them with a refreshing papaya salad. For the ngau nam ($9.50), he offers a twist on the classic French dip by serving the Chinese braised beef sandwich with five-spice-seasoned dipping jus.
What’s the inspiration for all this experimentation? “I wanted to re-create memories — sandwiches, meals, dishes — I enjoyed in the past,” Lim says. “The menu is like my collection of short stories.” 4356 W. Armitage Ave., Hermosa