Second Generation, Dorothy’s Bistro restaurants

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This is a tale of two Logan Square pandemic survivors who both decided to re-concept. Not only did they change their names and menus, but they’ve also rethought how they serve guests.

What’s so fascinating is that they decided to go in opposite directions.

Brian and Taylor Bruns decided to forgo the full-service model used for Flat & Point, to create Dorothy’s Bistro, where you now order at the back counter. The quick-service Mini Mott, which served mostly burgers and fries, is now the full-service Second Generation, where you can find Korean barbecue-inspired steak frites and charred octopus.

I visited each place once to get a sense of how the new direction was working out. (For that reason, neither will have a star rating, as our reviews typically require at least two visits.) Here’s what I found.

Though I tried my best to get the word out, I always felt like Flat & Point was my secret. The restaurant was undoubtedly difficult to describe — perhaps hearty Alpine-inspired cuisine meets American smokehouse — but any confusion with the concept melted away as soon as I started eating.

While chef Brian Bruns spent time at the fine-dining destinations of Tru and Spiaggia, at Flat & Point he seemed to celebrate the simplicity of properly smoked meat and deftly seasoned vegetables.

That’s still true with Dorothy’s Bistro, which as Bruns told me before the opening, was inspired by his Bavarian grandmother, Dorothy O’Leary. To cut down on costs, you now order at the back counter, with food runners bringing out the dishes when they are ready. Bruns also streamlined the menu to a forceful nine-item collection, making failure for any of them out of the question.

The stunning Alpine salad features tender delicata squash, crisp cucumber and crunchy brown-butter croutons dressed in a ringing vinaigrette that rests on a bed of smooth ricotta. The lasagna, which you can get with tomato sauce or a meaty offal Bolognese (I recommend the latter), is deeply comforting without being obnoxiously heavy.

The Alpine salad with Delicata squash, ricotta, cucumber and brown butter croutons at Dorothy's Bistro.
The lasagna at Dorothy's Bistro.

Even the bread and butter over-delivers. Bruns and his wife, Taylor Bruns, bake stunning sourdough bread that is crackly on the outside while being almost custardy in the middle. It’s so good, they’ve been selling it regularly at Green City Market and might even open a bakery at another location soon.

If you are seriously hungry, the choucroute garnie — a European dish of sauerkraut and sausage — will solve that. Order the massive platter and you’ll choose from one of three types of expertly smoked meat, usually a choice of sausage, porchetta or ribs. (If so inclined, you can pay for two or all three, though it will cost more and you’ll likely need to bring more friends to help you finish.) Each order also comes with a plentiful portion of creamy potatoes and acidic sauerkraut.

In some ways, by dispensing with the usual waitstaff, Dorothy’s Bistro has maximized the price-to-quality ratio of the food. Costs are surprisingly moderate, and portions are ample. That’s a tempting combination to me, though if you believe service is just as crucial to an experience, I can understand how you might dislike ordering at the table before you sit down.

Tartine-rye, duck breast prosciutto, mascarpone, grilled grapes, Melrose peppers and dill.

I am all for restaurants experimenting with the ordering process, but I do wonder if there is a way to make this kind of setup smoother and maybe more personal. That said, while you do place your main order at the counter, if you finish your drink halfway through the meal, the staff will happily take another order at your table.

Regardless, thanks to the enormous smoker and live-fire grill, a comforting campfire aroma hangs in the air. Add to that the tall wooden booths and subdued lighting, and Dorothy’s manages to feel just as cozy as its predecessor.

If Dorothy’s Bistro feels like a distillation of Flat & Point, Second Generation is an abrupt U-turn.

Mini Mott opened in 2018 as a quick-service spot where one could easily enjoy the nationally acclaimed burger from Mott St., which was only available at certain hours and at the West Town restaurant’s bar. Fortunately, the burger is still here, and thanks to the distinctive use of sweet potato frizzles, miso butter and hoisin aioli, it would still make my list of the best burgers in the city.

According to Second Generation co-owner Nate Chung, Mini Mott managed to survive the pandemic thanks to takeout orders, but getting people back in the restaurant has been difficult.

“We missed hanging out with our guests,” Chung said. “We wanted to go back to our roots.” This means Second Generation feels far more like Mott St., which is definitely not a bad thing. French influences bump against Korean, Japanese and American ones, yet nothing feels forced.

The campfire greens with smoked cauliflower, bitter radicchio, green beans, sahmjahng hummus, pumpkin seed, golden raisins, preserved lemon and citrus vinaigrette at Second Generation in Logan Square.

The restaurant’s name comes from the fact that all the owners — Chung, Vicki Kim and chef Edward Kim — are second-generation Americans. “Honestly, we were a little ashamed of that label back in the day, but now we want to embrace it,” Chung said. “We are Americans, and this is the food we love.”

The number of influences on some dishes is bewildering. The campfire greens feature smoked cauliflower with radicchio and green beans set atop a hummus infused with ssamjang, the Korean fermented soybean and red chile paste. It’s all tossed with a bright preserved lemon vinaigrette. I worried all of this would clash, but it’s remarkably balanced.

When I visited, the shifting sea scallop dish featured three plump and sweet scallops in a corn and miso butter sauce, which reminded me of Mexican elote in the best possible way.

The sea scallops with water kimchi, dill and toasted bonito at Second Generation.

Though it’s the most expensive item on the menu at $38, the kalbi steak frites already looks like a contender for the restaurant’s signature iconic dish. As the name suggests, the skirt steak is given a Korean barbecue marinade, but then it’s paired with an herby and acidic Argentine chimichurri sauce. Each bite is deeply beefy, but also slightly fruity with just a hint of spice. On the side is a mound of crispy thin-cut fries, which come with a heaping dollop of creamy, garlicky aioli.

The kalbi steak frites with grilled skirt steak marinated in Korean BBQ spices, chimichurri and skinny fries.

I didn’t have much luck with the cocktails, but the wines by the glass are nicely chosen and reasonably priced, especially the sleek Thea Mantinia 2018 Semeli from Greece.

With a full waitstaff, the feel inside the small space has completely changed. The open kitchen now brims with chefs, as servers quickly crisscross the room. There’s an unmistakable energy, which means Second Generation has exactly the kind of bustling bistro vibe the owners wanted.

It’s understandably more expensive than Mini Mott, and even Dorothy’s, but I don’t think this kind of lively atmosphere will ever get old. Sometimes it’s worth paying for.

[email protected]

3524 W. Fullerton Ave.

773-904-7152

dorothyschicago.com

Open: 5-9 p.m. Thursday and Sunday; 5-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; closed Monday to Wednesday.

Prices: Starters, $9-$15; entrees, $16-$26

Noise: Conversation friendly

Accessibility: Wheelchair accessible, with bathroom on first floor

3057 W. Logan Blvd.

773-904-7620

eatsecondgen.com

Open: 5-10 p.m., Wednesday-Saturday; 5-9 p.m. Sunday; 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. brunch Friday-Sunday.

Prices: Starters, $14-$21; entrees, $21-$38

Noise: Conversation friendly

Accessibility: Wheelchair accessible, with bathroom on first floor

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