NORTH CENTER — The slate at Chalkboard has been wiped clean.
For 6½ years, chef/owner Gilbert Langlois has posted the day's menu on his restaurant's eponymous chalkboard, a habit that came to an end Sunday night.
Two weeks ago, Langlois announced he was shuttering Chalkboard on July 21, with plans to reopen at the same Lincoln Avenue address as Homegrown Cafe, a breakfast/brunch/lunch spot. Dinner is off the table.
The reason behind the shift is simple: "I want to spend more time with my kid," Langlois said.
His 7-year-old son, Owen, is now at the age where hanging out in the kitchen with Dad is no longer a thrill.
"He's completely bored. I knew something had to change. I want to be near him, doing things he's interested in," Langlois said.
"It's going to be a huge change. I'm over 40, and I've never had a 9-to-5 job. I'm going to be done with work at 4, which is weird."
He's already begun dusting off his social skills that had grown rusty from years of 16-hour workdays.
During Chalkboard's final weeks, Langlois, who lives above the restaurant, began spontaneously inviting customers to his backyard patio at the end of the evening's dinner service.
"My throat is so sore from talking," he said.
"They know my story; I don't know theirs. I've seen these people all the time — only from the waist up," he said. "You like fried chicken and macaroni and cheese, and that's all I know about you."
As Langlois downshifts to a more leisurely pace in his own life, he aims to encourage patrons to do the same and take time with their meals.
"I'm not trying to burn people in and out of here," he said. "I want people to enjoy their life."
The emphasis at Homegrown Cafe will be on simple American food, with a bit of a Cajun/New Orleans-style influence. Think oyster po' boy sandwiches or a homemade take on the McRib that substitutes beef short ribs for mystery meat.
"It will have a lot of soul in it, heart and care," Langlois said. "We're not doing cheeseburgers, we're not doing wings."
Langlois intends to bring the same quality and freshness to his new menu as he did to Chalkboard's. Bounty from his backyard garden will continue to make it onto diner's plates — just not at the same three-star level.
"I want to compete with across the street," he said, gesturing toward the Golden Angel.
If all goes according to plan, Langlois will have Homegrown Cafe up and running by the first week of August.
"It's going to be a quick flip," he said. "I feel like I'm in a reality show."
As he prepares to close one chapter and open another, Langlois is entering this new phase with a different set of priorities: being a good father and making good food.
"At this point, I'm not working for me," he said. "I'm working to make [Owen's] life as peaceful and wonderful as possible."