“We’re trying to make real food that’s fun and creative, but has that real Chicago blue collar feel to it.” That’s Nick Jirasek’s vision for Old Habits, a standalone enterprise that will be serving up food inside of Ludlow Liquors (2959 N. California Ave., Avondale), the new bar from the team behind Sportsman’s Club.
Ludlow Liquors has gotten a lot of attention lately for its interesting bar concept—the plan is to sell drinks by the ounce, make a damn good whiskey sour, and bring a Lower East Side vibe to Chicago. But while the bar is inspired by New York, the idea for Old Habits came from owner Wade McElroy’s visits to Austin, where many bars have incorporated semi-permanent food trucks in order to provide snacks to their dedicated drinkers.
Old Habits isn’t quite a food truck (they’ll operate out of a kitchen inside the bar), but it’s a different concept with a different creative direction —which just happens to operate inside of Ludlow Liquors. “To me it’s really exciting creatively,” McElroy says. “The opportunity to have someone who comes and visits Ludlow discover Old Habits, or seeks out Old Habits and discovers Ludlow, we’re going to feed off that energy.”
Jirasek has come up with one of the most delicious-sounding short menus I’ve seen in a while: homemade fries served with either beef gravy or melted vanilla gelato, smoked Chicago rib tips served with flour tortillas and homemade BBQ sauces. “When we get started, the menu will just be four to six items,” explains Jirasek. “As we get more comfortable, as we grow into the backyard, we’ll keep on expanding the Old Habits menu.”
Jirasek also wants to bring his own Filipino cultural heritage to the menu. Old Habits will offer a ton of different chicken legs (“Chicken wings are expensive now,” he says), including one with a homemade adobo sauce, and a selection of egg rolls, including a Filipino-style lumpia shanghai made with ground beef, pork, and, yes, Spam. “It’s delicious and melds well,” said Jirasek. They'll also offer what Jirasek called a “really dope salad” made with massaged kale, ancient grains, various seasonal veggies, and a vegan, “golden milk” ranch dressing.
The entire menu is sharable and affordable (dishes will range from $8 to $12), which should make Avondale neighbors and visitors alike pretty thrilled. The bar is slated to open later this winter.