Mojo Coffee brings New Zealand to Chicago Loop

Sunday, February 10, 2019
Hungry Hound: Mojo Coffee
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Hungry Hound: Mojo Coffee

CHICAGO (WLS) -- New Zealand is known for its breathtaking scenery, worthy of a "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, but our Hungry Hound says one of that country's best-known coffeehouses has been quietly serving breakfast and lunch to Loop workers for about a year.

It's the company's only location outside of New Zealand, and the original menu is pretty much intact from back home.

Extra Course: Mojo Coffee

Since 2003, Mojo Coffee has been a constant presence in New Zealand. When they wanted to break into the U.S. market, they first thought East Coast.

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"We looked at New York first, but realized pretty quickly that for a new business breaking into this market, retail is really expensive, so a bit risky," said Steven Gianoutsos, the owner of Mojo Coffee.

So this narrow strip in the base of an office building serves as both meeting place as well as coffee shop.

"Coffee's gotta be premium. The quality has to be up there. The consistency has to be really, really good," Gianoutsos said.

The flat white is a typical drink from down under. But they've also brought along an ambitious menu, with some grab-and-go in the front case, others meant for light snacking and a few ambitious dishes, considering the space limitations.

"But also, we have an a la carte menu. Within that menu you've got breakfast items and lunch items," Gianoutsos said.

Toasts dominate the menu. Chunky, ripe avocados, showered with crumbled feta and some olive oil, cured salmon layered over a celery root remoulade, and their national symbol, the mince pie, with a side of tomato chutney.

"You grow up eating mince on toast. Now, mince is ground beef that's been sauteed, like chili or a sloppy joe consistency," Gianoutsos said.

So why not serve it on toast? Their answer: the Cheeky Mince Toast.

"We braise beef cheek for six-to-eight hours, put that on really nice sourdough and a poached egg on top of that. It's a really good breakfast," Gianoutsos said.

Not only is Mojo's menu a little bit different than what you're accustomed to, here's the other interesting thing: no wifi, and hence, no one sitting on laptops. The intention is come down, have a bite to eat, have your meeting and then move on.

Mojo Coffee

200 S. Wacker Dr., Chicago