In 2015, Chicago-born chef Edward Kim was approached by Chicago Eater to create a limited-edition burger for the publication’s Burger Week promotion, which featured stacks of patties made by chefs who wouldn’t normally put the beefy dish on their menu. Kim resisted the idea at first, as Mott St’s kitchen didn’t have a flat top for grilling burgers. But then Kim slipped on a patch of ice on her way to work and broke her leg. Suddenly he found himself stuck in bed and had all the time in the world to imagine his perfect burger.
“I had two versions, one that I threw the kitchen sink over – it had lamb pancetta and kimchi and all those other ingredients, I thought it was going to be awesome,” said Kim said.
When he tasted this version, he came to the conclusion that it was too salty and too messy to serve. But his backup creation was pretty good, even the cold version of the dish he munched on while in bed. Members of his kitchen team who ate a freshly made burger in Mott St agreed, and the Mott Burger was born.
Initially, the two quarter-pound patties cooked in miso butter and stacked with American cheese, aioli hoisin, pickled jalapeños, diced onions, and sweet potato frizz were only available to order. that if you got a spot at the Mott St. bar it was mainly because the kitchen sautéed every burger to order, making it difficult for the kitchen and the dishwashers to keep up with a high volume of orders. That didn’t stop people from lining up outside Mott St to check out the burger, especially after it appeared on several local and national listings touting “Chicago‘s best burgers,” including Free time in Chicagoits own list.
The burger took on a life of its own, ultimately prompting Kim to develop a concept based on her creation, in partnership with his wife Jenny and sister Vicki. Mini Mott debuted in a Logan Square storefront in 2018, finally offering a way to taste the Mott Burger without the strict guidelines surrounding the dish at Mott St.
“The guiding light [for Mini Mott] has been what we want in a burger store, ”Kim said, explaining how he approached the changing menu at the casual place. “We have wings, we have different sandwiches. There are times when the menu gets more robust, and sometimes we take a step back and consolidate it. “
Mini Mott’s outpost at Time Out Market has a very focused menu of burgers and fries (“We probably have the smallest menu in the building,” Kim said). One innovation Mini Mott brought to Fulton Market from the original Logan Square location is a vegetarian version of the Mott Burger, which replaces beef patties with jackfruit. Kim explained that he’s not a fan of vegetarian substitutes like plant-based burger patties, he prefers to use vegetables in an unprocessed form.
“Every time you try to do [food] it’s an imitation of something else, usually it falls flat, “Kim said.” When you’re doing something that’s good in itself, it’s a lot easier to judge for itself. “
Whether you prefer your Mott Burger with jackfruit or beef, today it’s easier than ever to grab the coveted creation, which stays on the menu at Mott St (where it’s only available before 7pm) and is prominently displayed at Mini Mott and the Mini Mott location inside Time Out Market Chicago. Kim acknowledges that the combination of ingredients like miso, hoisin, and sweet potato frizz (inspired by the potato chips he put on sandwiches as a kid) may seem like an unlikely mix, but he sees the Mott Burger as a representation of the cast iron pot of influences that characterizes contemporary American cuisine.
“When I watch Mott it’s fusion and it’s a mishmash, but I think it’s very natural rather than being forced,” Kim said. “When you grow up in Chicago you have a Korean friend, you have a Mexican friend, you have a Polish friend, you have so many exhibits and to me that’s what American food is.”
You can order a Mott Burger in Mott St, Mini Mott or Mini Mott at Time Out Market Chicago.