Throw avec and momofuku noodle bar circa 2005 in a blender and the result is Mott Street, 2013. Myriad other influences seem to have driven the creators of this new Wicker Park gem, but the link between NY and Chicago jumped out at me the instant I walked in the front door.
In 2005, avec was two and momofuku had been open a year. Both had the energy of successful new restaurants with lines out the door and a very real fear that the bubble might burst at any time. It’s a unique and exciting energy to be part of. I visited momofuku while in NY in 2005, on my way to Europe for one of the first scouting trips for Candid. Connor was living in New York and raved about the restaurant’s strong flavors and creative technique. momofuku was swarming the night we went. It felt like young people from all over the city if not the world were eating there as a preamble to their night on the town.
Chicagoans looking at the picture above might for a moment think that it is avec from the back; the communal table, warm wood and long bar. The young, trendy crowd and small slit of an opening in the wall only adds to that feeling.
The restaurant’s blog offers an insight into Chef Edward Kim’s‘ sources of inspiration. Though restaurants and markets far beyond NYC are featured, Mott, the street, runs through the heart of Chinatown in New York, where I understand Chef Kim and his wife were regular diners when they lived in Manhattan. It was in our third round of small plates, plunged deep into the glory of Mott Street’s Crab Brains with Chinese Sausage and Muscadet “Classique” from Domaine de L’Ecu when I realized exactly why I had instinctively connected Mott Street, avec and momofuku: it’s the people and their energy.
On the night I ate at momofuku, the crowd was as mixed as the subway in Singapore; folks of Indian, Chinese, African, Southeast Asian, Hispanic and European descent filled the seats and served the food. Mott Street is similar, with a healthy dose of beards, tattoos, and Chicago style hipster foodies thrown in. If you’ve been to Big Star, Telegraph, or avec, you’ll know exactly what I mean.
Of course the food is the thing, and I’ll be careful to compare the kitchens of a two day old restaurant to two of this country’s most influential spots of the last decade. From the standpoint of food alone, I think Steve Dolinsky was accurate in 2008 when he asked if Urban Belly is Chicago’s answer to momofuku. I’d agree on flavors, but the energy of the two places is quite different. Rather than try to outdo the Hungry Hound, I’ll let you decide. What I will say is that it was Connor’s idea that we go there, even though he had been the night before for the soft opening. Remember that he turned me on to momofuku, and he thought Mott Street was good enough to return two days in a row.
1401 N Ashland
Tuesday to Saturday: 5:30 pm – 10:00 pm
Sunday, Monday: closed
Unlike Ruxbin, Mott Street is not BYOB. A wonderful selection of Candid Wines is available on Mott Street’s wine list including: