While it’s not novel for a restaurant to serve seasonal food, Old Habits chef Nick Jirasek is ripping a page out of Next’s playbook, with a periodical overhaul of their offerings. There are still traces of the opening menu’s Filipino and South Side flavors, but most of it’s been replaced by a lineup of unique soups including rib tip ramen and collard pancit guisado. They’re calling the first iteration of the rotating options “Bones Brothery.”
Bones Brothery’s selections will remain available until the weather heats up in Chicago and then they’ll swap them. A future menu at Old Habits, for example, may include ceviche and grilled seafood made with fish caught from a Great Lake. Jirasek wants to serve the type of food Chicagoans will appreciate during freezing temperatures. When Old Habits debuted, Jirasek and company described it like an art gallery where exhibits would come and go. Now they’ll follow through by giving the chef and his collaborators — including newly hired Dan Martini (Best Intentions, Saba) — the chance to try items that push the envelope.
Jirasek keeps ideas digitally via Google Keep and some are written on a large sheet of parchment paper at Old Habits’ kitchen. Cooks may not trust themselves enough to throw out unique items, Jirasek said, and sometimes they don’t have the time trapped in a busy kitchen. Old Habits’ new approach gives Jirasek a fresh canvas to paint.
For example, Jirasek’s fascinated by the liquid created while cooking collard greens. He told Martini and they decided to dehydrate collards, then rehydrate to make broth. For the lengua yakumen, they’re braising beef tongue — but not too much so it falls apart — and cutting it into medallions. The result is a combo of Cajun, Chinese, and Latino flavors. That may sound a bit pretentious, and that’s not what Jirasek wants. He wants to provide customers with an opportunity to try something new and feel comfortable about the experience.
Jirasek will soon oversee a pair of kitchens. Ludlow/Old Habits is owned by Wade McElroy and Jeff Donahue who are prepping to open Young American, the replacement for Johnny’s Grill and Mezcaleria las Flores in Logan Square. They’re hoping to open it by the end of the month. The Chicago Reader spoke with Jirasek last month and got the scoop about the menu. While Old Habits embraces nostalgia, the food at Young American will be dark. Much of the food will be colored black including goth bread and black bean brandade.
While Logan Square waits for Young American, check out Old Habits’ latest menu, which debuted on Wednesday, below.