Young American opens tonight in Logan Square with a mission to show Chicago that the neighborhood is still hip by offering late-night food that artfully mingles nostalgia. If that’s too tall of an order, try one of the CBD-infused cocktails at the bar or mellow out with a spirit-free drink. This is the agenda for the bar that officially opens tonight at 2545 N. Kedzie Avenue.
The polar vortex played a part in pushing back opening day, but those negative temperatures have subsided. It’s from Leisure Activities, which also operates Ludlow Liquors in Avondale. Here’s what to know before visiting the bar, the first big opening of the year in Chicago:
- It’s nostalgia, but not in a cliched pop-up bar way: Chef Nick Jirasek (Currency Exchange Cafe, Old Habits at Ludlow Liquors) is serious about his fun. The goth bread has an ashy complexion that makes it look like a volcano. But there’s a method to his madness. The bread is actually a Bosco Stick in disguise, he said. Those were the cheese-stuffed breadsticks many Midwestern school kids, like Jirasek, ate in the cafeteria.
- There’s a drink called the “Fort Nite,” but it has nothing to do with video games. Beverage director Julia McKinley isn’t a fan of gaming and her colleagues had to fill her in on the reference. For one, the drink’s name isn’t a compound word. It’s made with Madeira (fortified wine), rancio sec, rye, Jamaican rum, and Angostura.
- Workers will be cross trained: As Chicago bar and restaurant owners find better ways to pay their workers, Young American is trying something different. Kitchen workers will sometimes serve food, and servers will sometimes prepare food. This tries to dissolve the sometimes classist and racist division that can exist at restaurants across the country between the front of the house and kitchen staff. Tips will be pooled between employees.
- They’ve reconfigured the space: They’ve created an open kitchen on the former Mezcaleria las Flores side and added a flattop grill. They’ll have DJs and customers will have room to dance and show off some youthful energy. Jonathan Sydello designed the space.
- A word about the CBD drinks: CBD-infused cocktails are an alternative to alcohol at Young American and not as some miracle health remedy. McKinley knows they aren’t the first to serve CBD, but using the hemp-derived ingredient is a rarity in Chicago’s bars. The CBD powder is from an Indiana supplier and is emulsified using Aquafawba. Customers could add CBD to spirit-free drinks if desired. It’s not supposed to alter the taste.
- The use of dark-colored foods and dehydrated drink garnishes (like rose petals; it’s a coincidence as the space used to house a flower shop) are supposed to play with the perception of what defines fresh. This goes doubly in Chicago where verdant greens can’t survive the winters outdoors. It’s also a response to what many feel is a tired narrative in Chicago dining, that the city’s chefs and cooks don’t know how to use and find seasonal ingredients. Also note the pomegranate seeds in the “Creature of Love” cocktail. Perhaps that’s a call out to Greek mythology and the story about why seasons change.
Young American, 2545 N. Kedzie Avenue, open 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday through Friday; 4 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Saturday.