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Mott St. Restaurant's Opening in Wicker Park Brings in the Crowds

By Alisa Hauser | June 14, 2013 10:47am
 Mott St., a new restaurant from the creators of West Town's Ruxbin, opened Wednesday at 1401 N. Ashland Ave. in Wicker Park.  
Mott St. Opens in Wicker Park
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WICKER PARK —  If Mott St. Chicago was an actual city street, rather than a restaurant, it would be crowded and free of sinkholes, blaring car alarms and honks.

In other words, everything would flow smoothly as it appeared to be doing Thursday during the second night of business inside the new Asian-influenced eatery at 1401 N. Ashland Ave. opened by restaurateurs who operate the nationally-acclaimed Ruxbin at 841 N. Ashland Ave.

"We wanted to be close by to Ruxbin. We love this neighborhood," said co-owner Nate Chung, 30.

Chung said half of his staff lives in or around Wicker Park and bikes or walks to work.

Gesturing to the packed room around him late Thursday, Chung said, "Most of the folks in here are neighbors. They came by to say hello and talk to us when they were watching us paint."

Chung said Mott St. Chicago was two years in the making and he and his three business partners (including chef Edward Kim) are "very excited" to be open.

They weren't the only ones.

On its second night, nary a seat was to be found, with a line for tables that an intrepid few managed to eclipse by braving 50-degree weather on the outdoor patio which is set back from the hustle and bustle of Ashland Avenue.

Part of the frenzy could be attributed to chef Edward Kim, visible through an open kitchen window that faces the patio.

Kim and his team have created an eclectic menu that offers double-fried wings, pickle dishes, fish heads, whiskey-marinated pork neck, and stuffed cabbage rolls, among other items.

Located in the former short-lived MC Restaurant space at the northeast corner of Blackhawk Street and Ashland Avenue, Mott's spacious yet sparse interior features tall, industrial ceilings and 64 seats, either at a long communal table running the length of the room or a smattering of tables and bar stools.

The menu is divided into seven sections offering veggies and salads, rolled and steamed items such as dumplings and spring rolls, soups and noodles, chicken, pork, seafood and fish and dessert.

One popular item was the double-fried and crispy "Everything Wings," glazed with soy and dried chilis and tossed with sesame, poppy seed and fried shallots.

Other menu highlights include "Funky Miso" — which is served in a crock and contains fermented bean stew, yellow zucchini, potatoes, baby clams, and chrysanthemum — and the wok-fried calamari bokum, a generous portion with Korean chili paste and breakfast potatoes.

There's a heavy Asian-influence to the menu, where Kimchi, green onion and seaweed appear in several dishes.

To wash everything down, there's a two-sided drink menu with a selection of beers on one side and about a half dozen custom cocktails conceived by mixologist Chad Hauge (formerly with Longman & Eagle).

Containing seasonal ingredients such as lime, ginger, celery and cucumber, the cocktails bear crafty names like "Storm in Spring" and "Resurrected."

Most of the menu offerings range between $8 and $14, with prices as low as $2 for a large slice of watermelon with chili salt and lime juice. 

For $200, there's a reservations-only "Fish Head with Black Bean Sauce" that feeds six and is served roasted, with black bean sauce, steamed brown rice and the kitchen's choice of "accouterments."

Mott St., 1401 N. Ashland Ave.  Ph: 312-200-0000. Hours are 5:30 to 10 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday.