We admired the beer list and even moreso the charcuterie list at Old Town Social, so we were shaken by a rumor earlier this year that chef Jared Van Camp had decamped for San Diego’s Quality Social, owned by the same restaurant group. Not to worry, Chicago— the move was only temporary and his company is now scouting out a third location somewhere within the city limits. We ran into Jared in the cookbook section of Barnes & Noble the other day and he gave us the inside story on his San Diego sojourn as well as the scoop on his next venture, a Euro-bohemian-rock-themed place.
So evidently you haven’t moved to San Diego, since you’re standing right here.
Naw, I was out there for about three and a half months getting our second place launched. But we have a great team in place there now, led by Sam Burman, who used to be at Bluprint. So… here I am. We’re looking for our third place now, here in Chicago.
What’s it going to be, more beer and charcuterie?
We don’t know yet. We had some concepts in mind but now we’ve seen some places kind of doing the same thing that are about ready to open. So we’re trying to think, what would be one step ahead of that?
We’re thinking something kind of European in feel, very high energy, inspired by the excess and fashion of the late sixties and early seventies. The name will pay homage to the “Pure Rock ‘n’ Roll Bohemia” era— think rock ‘n’ roll grit meets European chic.
The food will have some urban French influences— more seafood and more late night dining than Old Town Social. But more European-inspired than solely French-focused. Everyone and their brother is trying to do a Pastis knock-off right now (including some boldface names), but we’d never do something so easily defined or so obvious.
So has the beer and charcuterie thing worked at Old Town Social? It seems like that crowd cares about beer and cocktails more than they care that you’re making this great charcuterie.
Well, it’s the margins on the cocktails and the mixology program that give you freedom in the kitchen. That’s what great about it. Like, we have a turkey club on the menu. If you had told me two years ago that I’d be at a place making a turkey club, I’d have been… [makes face of despair]
But okay, that just means we have to think, how can we make the best turkey club we can. Of course, we start by making our own bacon. Then we take a turkey, bone it out, roll it and galantine it and smoke it. And it’s a great turkey club, and we can do that because the bar does such good business.
To judge by your Tweets, you’re making jam a lot these days, too. That makes sense, preserve meat as charcuterie, preserve fruit as jam, right?
Well, it goes so well with the meat. And fruit is just amazing this year. I’m going around telling Nichols [Farm] and all those guys, anything left over, seconds, I’ll buy it and do something with it. I think that’s going to be a big part of the new place.
So we’re in a bookstore, what’s the best book about making jam?
Paul Virant gave me Christine Ferber’s Mes Confitures about six years ago. He was going crazy making stuff out of it, and he got me hooked on it too. She has this way of getting so much flavor out of fruit— it takes like three days. You macerate the fruit the first day, then you bring it to a boil and just stop and let it sit, the second day. Finally, the third day, you cook down the juice and then add the fruit back into it. It’s crazy, but the flavor is just amazing.