Hot Chocolate has been open for 15 years. That’s kind of astonishing, given how popular the Wicker Park restaurant still is, but chef Mindy Segal’s spot featuring the namesake “I’m going to be in a sugar coma but I don’t care” drink keeps going strong. That doesn’t mean the owner is resting on her laurels. In addition to many other upcoming projects, Segal is about to launch a new concept centered around Hot Chocolate’s super-popular burger.
Since the opening of Revival Food Hall, Segal has had a presence there, and opening it fulfilled an old dream. As a pastry chef, Segal always wanted to open a bakery. “But I didn’t know anything about the bakery business back then,” says Segal. Well, she’s learned a thing or two, because her bakery at Revival does big business. “We sell out our pastries by 9:30 in the morning, and reset the case with cookies at 10:30 and we sell out every day,” explains Segal.
On the heels of the success of her bakery at Revival, Segal is opening another spot in the food hall, this one dedicated to her signature burger. What makes the burger so great? Mostly, paying attention to each step of the process — the buns are made from local grain, the meat is from Slagel Farms and freshly ground, and the toppings are carefully chosen. “When you care and you’re concerned about everything that goes into it, the end product should be great,” says Segal.
All this awesomeness will come to the burger pop-up at Revival, starting on August 5 and running for seven months. While the new concept is fast casual, instead of sit-down, the process and the ingredients are exactly the same. “It’s called integrity, we’re going to keep integrity to the brand, and we’re gonna cook with love.” There will actually be a few burgers on the menu — the traditional, a turkey burger topped with giardiniera and provolone and dipped in turkey jus (“it’s like an Italian beef but turkey”) and a veggie burger. There’s also a burger of the month, which Segal hinted might involve some chef collaborations. For the first month, it’s a reuben burger, with chunks of corned pork belly mixed into the burger meat.
The menu isn’t particularly complicated; Segal is also serving mac & cheese, but the burger is the focus. Every burger will come with cottage fries. Why cottage fries instead of traditional? “Everyone does fries and I’m sick of them, they’re my favorite thing to eat, but I’m fucking sick of them,” laughs Segal.
If you’re a dessert fan, you will definitely want to save room. Segal claims to have created a “new genre of drink” by freezing her famous hot chocolate in a soft serve machine. There will be two versions on offer — a half and half combo of hot chocolate and frozen hot chocolate, with cream and hot fudge (“it’s like a mind eraser but a milk shake”) and a version that’s half porter and half frozen hot chocolate.
If this sounds like a killer fast casual concept, well, that’s not an accident — Segal is hoping this is her next big move. In addition to this new outpost at Revival, she’s opening a dessert location at the United Center, she’s got an idea for a bagel concept, and she wants to expand her bakery brand. Open another restaurant? “If I opened another restaurant, you would see me six feet under. I’m not interested,” says Segal. Fast casual, she insists, is the way to go.
Segal won’t say yet if she plans to do any formal celebration of the 15th birthday of Hot Chocolate, but she takes an enormous amount of pride in what she and her team have accomplished over the years. “I’m a pastry chef and I have a savory restaurant, I did it by myself with my family,” says Segal. “I’m very proud of my staff and everything I’ve done for women and for pastry chefs. I’ve made it so women can think they can do anything.”