Earlier this month, Young American — the Logan Square restaurant that opened last year with a drink list of CBD cocktails — switched to a menu focused on Filipino food. It’s not unusual for Chicago restaurants to tweak a menu, but changing genres is the kind of transformation reserved for Next, Alinea Group’s newly minted Michelin-starred restaurant on Fulton Market.
Management also shuffled its chefs. Chef Nick Jirasek will now focus on Young American. He was playing double duty at Ludlow Liquors in Avondale. Mickey Neely (Middlebrow Beer Co.’s Bungalow) has taken over as chef at Ludlow. Jirasek opened Young American with items like goth bread. He wanted to play with perceptions and show customers that Chicagoans have their own ways of cooking seasonally — even through polar vortices. Jirasek, who is Filipino-American, is leaning more into his family background. Young American has retooled to better please the neighborhood. There are a lot of choices in Logan Square.
“We’re never going to be Lula [Cafe], we’re going to be Young American and bring our own fun energy to the corner of Logan Square,” Jirasek said.
Menu highlights include “Not Cacio e Pepe” — a dish made with spicy ramen noodles from Sun Noodle, shiitake stock brewer’s yeast, and chili crisp. Of course, there’s lumpia, as well as popcorn shrimp. There’s also popcorn creme brûlée.
Jirasek described the menu as a marriage between the opening menu at Ludlow (which featured a Adobo chicken and lumpia) and opening menu at Young American. The latter was influenced by Jirasek’s background in the art scene.
The menu gives Jirasek another chance to explore his identity as a Filipino-American, Chicagoan, artist, and chef. Sometimes those aspects compete with each other, but Jirasek is trying to articulate his true self through is menu.
“I didn’t necessarily grow up and eat a whole bunch of Filipino food,” he said. Researching the menu gave him the opportunity to immerse himself.
Jirasek is excited for Young American’s new direction. He’s also keeping true to his origins saying he wants the restaurant to host pop-up dinners with chefs on the underground circuit. These chefs hold dinners at residences. Elizabeth chef Iliana Regan honed her craft in the same manner before she opened her Michelin-starred restaurant.
Check out Young American’s new menu below.