LOGAN SQUARE — Asian-inspired burger joint Mini Mott, the little sister of popular Wicker Park eatery Mott Street, closed this summer after a four-year run on Logan Boulevard. But the owners didn’t abandon the Logan Square restaurant — they merely switched gears.
The owners brought the restaurant back to life a few weeks later as Second Generation, a full-service eatery that pays homage to their Asian-American heritage, serving an elevated and expanded menu.
Second Generation, 3057 W. Logan Blvd., quietly opened last month with a menu of Asian-influenced dishes from chef and co-owner Edward Kim, including misoyaki eggplant, katsu chicken, kalbi steak frites and the now-famous Mott Street burger.
The restaurant’s name is an acknowledgement that it’s the owners’ second eatery in the Logan Boulevard storefront, and also a nod to the owners’ background as second-generation Asian Americans. Like at Mini Mott, the owners’ family photos fill one of the restaurant’s walls.
“That’s really encompassed our lived experiences: We’re Americans. We’re also Asian Americans, and we’re also Chicagoans. That informs how we operate in our restaurant world and in our communities. That’s just a part of us,” co-owner Vicki Kim said.
Vicki Kim opened Mini Mott, a counter-service spot, with her brother, Edward Kim, and sister-in-law, Jennifer Kim, and their business partner and collaborator, Nate Chung, in 2018. The restaurant was a casual spin-off of Mott Street, 1401 N. Ashland Ave.
Edward Kim’s sought-after, double-stacked Mott Street burger — made with American cheese, sweet potato strings, jalapeno pickles, hoisin aioli and miso butter — was the star of Mini Mott.
“With the influx and demand, it made sense for us to open a burger joint,” Edward Kim told the Tribune before opening Mini Mott. “It seems like people want it, so it would be silly for us not to give the people what they want.”
Mini Mott was a success, Vicki Kim said; the Mott Street burger was a hit, along with other menu items such as the katsu sando, garlic confit fries and taiyaki ice cream cones.
But Vicki Kim said they always had an eye toward opening a full-service restaurant in the space, and that impulse only grew as the pandemic went on.
“We had this desire to change things up, to evolve,” she said. “We were feeling this desire, and it didn’t go away, so we were like, ‘Let’s just go for it.'”
It took the owners about three weeks to convert Mini Mott into Second Generation with help from designer Mike Duesenberg. The sit-down restaurant has several dining areas, including a semi-private “reading room” in back with magazines for patrons to peruse. Its menu pays tribute to the owners’ Asian-American roots.
Vicki and Edward Kim are second-generation Korean American, while Nate Chung is second-generation Chinese American.
“It’s American, it’s Asian American and it’s Chicago, and it’s told through the lens of our personal experience,” Vicki Kim said.
“Maybe other people didn’t grow up with chicken katsu. … Nate grew up in Hawaii, so when he first tried the chicken katsu we put out, he was like, ‘This is childhood.’ In American culture, what is childhood? Chicken tenders. … Everyone understands juicy, fried chicken tenders.”
Second Generation is decidedly less casual than Mini Mott — and is a display of Edward Kim’s culinary extensive training. But Vicki Kim said they want the restaurant to feel “accessible and approachable.”
“We want to be a place that’s a neighborhood spot, where folks feel like they can pop in a couple times a week if they want,” she said.
By the end of service, chefs typically ask other restaurant employees if patrons are liking their food. But Vicki Kim said that’s not what her brother wants to know. He always asks if people are having a good time, she said.
“We don’t want people to go there and worship the food. We want people to have a moment of respite, feel taken care of,” she said.
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