With its mismatched chairs and communal tables, Rootstock is no lovey-dovey luxury destination for two. Which is appropriate, since Humboldt Park’s newest—and only—wine bar is hardly the work of a canoodling duo. The group effort started with a trio of Webster’s Wine Bar vets with a big idea and an even bigger crew of helping hands (a who’s who of friends from the likes of Pops for Champagne, Goose Island, and Hot Chocolate). And yet the eclectic storefront has us swooning.
A flat refusal from cash-strapped banks meant the owners had to construct their Champagne dreams on a Coca-Cola budget: thrifting furniture and place settings from Craigslist (though the shabby-chic vibe is assembled with such an eye, you’d swear it was by design and not necessity); doing most of the construction themselves; and playing the roles of bartender, server, and janitor. The one exception? “We didn’t compromise on spending a shiny penny on our stemware,” says a co-owner, Tonya Pyatt.
What goes in the glass is just as pretty—as is the price, which starts at $6 a pour. It’s hard not to admire a description-heavy wine list that includes “one of the most beautiful 2005 Chinons on the planet” and refers to winemakers as if they were old pals. It’s also hard to resist the all-domestic cheese menu and Goose Island Matilda on draft ($6)—not to mention the blood, sweat, and tears that went into the place. It was enough to make us swig a third glass—just to support the business, of course.
From the looks of things, that’s a shared sentiment. Humboldt Park’s growing ranks of wine drinkers, many fleeing a gentrified Wicker Park/Bucktown, lend a chummy, straight-out-of-Brooklyn vibe. It may not be dripping in romance, but this is one neighborhood affair you’re likely to fall for.
GO: ROOTSTOCK WINE & BEER BAR
954 N. California Ave.; rootstockbar.com
Photography: Chris Guillen