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Hot Chocolate

By Erin in Food on Jun 6, 2005 5:43PM

2005_04_hotchocolate.jpg Chicagoist's favorite thing about Hot Chocolate, the quasi-new restaurant opened by acclaimed pastry chef Mindy Segal, is not surprising:

The desserts. We loved them.

Chicagoist will admit that we had no doubt that we'd love the desserts. A major reason why MK had long been a favorite of ours was due in no small amount to Segal when she presided over its sweets. It wasn't enjoying her desserts that concerned us. We just had our doubts about the overall menu, to say nothing of the entire restaurant.

We know we weren't alone.

2005_04_hotchocolatediningroom.jpg The first and most surprising thing to note about Hot Chocolate is how warm and inviting it is for a place that ought to have a neon sign posted out front with flashing lights that read "Trendy Spot Here."

If Chicagoist had to hear one more time about how "hot" and "trendy" Hot Chocolate was slated to be, we were going to high-tail it over to any number of the mega chains infiltrating the downtown area and hand our money over to the Gods of Applebees. Seriously, people. Enough with the hype.

We didn't expect the chocolate brown, cream, and red hues to come off as pleasant as they did and it put us at ease. The staff all dresses in variations of the chocolate brown color and jeans; not stuffy or stodgy at all. And either Chicagoist is getting too old to care or the clientle really was just a fantastic hodge-podge of hip and unhip alike. There were romantic first dates involving people with multiple piercings taking place as much as there were after-work gatherings of families.

Don't worry about impressing here. It's a friendly cafe. Really. Keep your club clothes at home. Just get ready to eat.

2005_04_hotchocolatesalmon.jpgChicagoist and friends sampled several items: an asparagus soup was delightful and a hit with all but one of us who found it a little on the salty side. We enjoyed the roasted Beet & goat cheese salad, seemingly a requirement for any mid- to upscale restaurant these days for reasons we can't quite understand though enjoy nonetheless. Moving on ...

There was an amazing Tuna Melt sandwich on cibatta bread and probably the item that prompted Chicagoist to announce that the entrées were decidely better than we'd imagined. Don't look for fussiness here, but you can rest assure that Segal and her staff are drumming up tasty fare.

But yes. The Desserts.

2005_04_hotchocolatesouffle.jpgChicagoist ordered three items, plus the Black and Tan which was a hot chocolate made of 1/3 hot fudge and 2/3 medium hot chocolate. Our favorite, hands down, was the warm chocolate souffle tart with salted caramel ice cream and pretzels.

Chicagoist is a fan of chocolate and salt and it was one big damn orgy of it dancing in our mouths.

The service was attentive without being pushy and the noise level is tolerable. The tables and chairs leave a little to be desired in the comfort area, but they lend themselves well to the feel of the place. Plus, they seem to work well in that small spot.

Hot Chocolate is an affordable treat; Chicagoist split the bill three ways and with drinks forked over about $40 a person.

One thing: lighten up burning the chocolate candles. They're everywhere and while it's a nice gimmick, Chicagoist would rather not smell artifical chocolate when the real thing is brewing in the back. It's nice in the bathrooms, though.

Hot Chocolate, 1747 North Damen Avenue, at Willow Avenue (773-489-1747). No reservations.