HUMBOLDT PARK — A new takeout restaurant in Humboldt Park is serving a classic Chinese street food burger with a modern twist.
The Han Burger, which rents a space in the Cloud Kitchens shared commercial kitchen at 3220 W. Grand Ave., has been busy with takeout and delivery orders since it opened in June, said co-owners John and Arami Hackett.
The restaurant features Chinese burgers with pork belly or beef brisket, slow-cooked for 10 hours in a variety of spices with fresh cilantro, with hot peppers from Taiwan on a traditional “mo” bread bun.
The Han Solo marinated pork belly burger is the kitchen’s signature item, but the owners recently added a Chicago Han burger, which has giardiniera instead of the spicy peppers, and a Keto Han burger, the original burger without the bun.
The owners call their concept a “re-imagining” of one of the world’s oldest burgers, a Chinese street food called roujiamo.
“We basically took the essence of roujiamo and added more meat and more bread,” said chef Arami Hackett. “We westernized — or Americanized — it so it’s easier to market to the American population.”
Arami Hackett, who is from Shanghai and moved to Chicago in 2018 with her husband, is excited to bring her culture to the city in a new way. She said the burgers can be customized by adding a fried egg on top, other vegetables or garlic aioli as a sauce. They are also bigger than traditional burgers in China to match American portion sizes, the duo said.
Apart from westernizing the historical burger, Arami Hackett said the aim is to educate people on the classic street food and attract adventurous diners who are eager to try something new. And Chicago is exactly where to find them, she said.
“It’s the perfect city to introduce the Han Burger,” she said, adding that friends have compared the burgers to an Asian Italian beef sandwich. “I love Chicago and I love Italian beef.”
John Hackett, who handles the marketing side of the restaurant and helps in the kitchen, said they are excited to bring this type of Chinese cuisine to the Humboldt Park and add to the city’s culinary tradition.
“Chicago is consistently rated the No. 1 food city in the entire country, if not the world, so to be able to introduce something that really hasn’t been introduced here previously — to people who are already very spoiled with their food choices — has been fun,” John Hackett said.
John Hackett said the coronavirus pandemic presented the perfect opportunity to open up an online restaurant since takeout and food delivery have become popular in the last few months.
The couple is looking at restaurant spaces to offer dine-in service to expand since the community response has been so overwhelming. But for now, John Hackett said Humboldt Park has allowed the Han Burger to reach people from various West and North side neighborhoods.
“It’s a fun journey for both of us because we actually have an opportunity to educate people [on] this sandwich that has been around over a long period of time and is consistently loved over dynasties and generations,” he said.
Arami Hackett said when the couple first met in China, they joked about quitting their marketing jobs and opening a restaurant. Now that it’s become a reality for her, she said she is excited about the career switch and is learning things every day.
“I am not used to being called ‘chef,’” she said. “Twenty-year-old Arami had no idea I’d be a chef and working in my restaurant.”
For now, Han Burger offers only five burgers, but the owners are working on two more: a vegetarian and lamb option. The couple also plans to open a keto kitchen with low-carb, high-fat lunch options called Deeper Purple Keto Kitchen, but they want to grow Han Burger first.
The Hacketts hope their burger dishes can bring happiness to customers during an unsettling time in the world and want to connect with the community through food.
“I truly believe food can bring joy to people’s lives,” Arami Hackett said. “We want to provide [happiness] in people’s lives.”
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