Since it opened in 2005, no one has ever seriously questioned the quality of the desserts coming out of Mindy Segal's Hot Chocolate in Bucktown. In fact, this year Segal won a much deserved James Beard Award for Best Pastry Chef. You'd be a fool not to try one of them, whether that's a sip of the restaurant's namesake drink, a bite of the crisp bacon chocolate chip cookie, or even a "study" of whatever happens to be in season at the time (this month rhubarb is getting the royal treatment). But the savory menu is not to be missed, especially since it was completely revamped a few months ago.
The menu is filled with delectable sounding options, but something about the crab cake sandwich ($15) lured me in. Sure, the shores of Lake Michigan aren't crawling with crabs (which is probably for the best), but that explains what "New England" is doing before the name. The cake itself has a very high crab-to-filler ratio, making for especially sweet and juicy bites. That's offset by the only Chicago flourish—a pickled and fiery roasted giardiniera tartar sauce. It's a fine sandwich, but I won't blame you for ditching the bun and going straight for the crab cake glory.