Tonya Clemmer (center) at a party last week in Rootstock’s upstairs room
Tonya Clemmer (center) at a party last week in Rootstock’s upstairs room

Rootstock Wine & Beer Bar, the cozy Humboldt Park spot owned by three former Webster’s Wine Bar vets and our 2010 pick for best wine bar, has gotten so popular that I now consider it a major win if I snag a stool there on a weekend—or actually any—night.

In order to accommodate more of its loyal drinkers, the bar has some changes on the horizon. In addition to its two-week-old Sunday brunch overseen by executive chef Duncan Biddulph and composed of “whatever our farmers bring us,” co-owner Tonya Clemmer and her partners plan to expand Rootstock’s beer program with the addition of several new draft lines come June.

The exterior of Rootstock

A physical expansion is also in the works. Last December, Clemmer and Co. realized their longtime goal of buying the building, and a now-vacant apartment on the second floor is slated to become a 50-seat bar in the fall. “We’d like to have it open before the next snowfall,” she says. The new room, which may have a slightly more loungelike feel than downstairs, will double Rootstock’s capacity and will allow the place to begin offering private parties. Tacking square footage onto a bar beloved for its coziness is always a risk, but Clemmer says the team will keep Rootstock’s signature ambiance in mind: “We’ll do more mismatched chairs, great rotating art shows, nice glassware, and a custom bar.”

If you want to see the upstairs room in its “before” state, my very own sweetheart, The Creative Director, will take over the vacant-for-now space tonight with one of his Salon Series events. On tap: a casual discussion about the Chicago artist Mike Nudelman’s ballpoint pen drawings paired with tastings from Biddulph (three words: whipped pork fat) and, from the beer list, Ommegang’s deliciously light Hennepin Farmhouse Saison. Here’s to the art of a perfect night out.


Photography: (inside) Cathy Sunu; (outside) Chris Guillen