For decades, oenophiles have had their pick of chic spots all over the North Side, like Pops for Champagne, Rootstock, and Webster’s Wine Bar. Not so much on the South Side. So it’s been a long time coming for a place like Bronzeville Winery, the stylish new wine-focused restaurant that opened in April along a blossoming stretch of Cottage Grove Avenue.
Owned by Eric Williams — best known for his shop Silver Room and its Sound System Block Party events — and hospitality design guru Cecilia Cuff, Bronzeville Winery is on the ground level of a new mixed-use building. The restaurant embraces local artwork, chill house music by top DJs, seasonal American cuisine by opening chef Whitney McMorris (now overseen by chef Dondee Robinson), craft cocktails by mixologist Ian Julian, and a global wine list by sommelier Derrick Westbrook, co-owner of Juice @ 1340, a West Loop bar and booze shop.
The emphasis on wine is surprising, considering Williams admits to being a novice on the subject. So why open Bronzeville Winery (which, despite the name, does not produce its own wine)? “I thought this would be something interesting to have in our community without having to go all the way to the North Side,” says Williams. In other words, he has created a destination for Black wine enthusiasts in a predominantly Black neighborhood. “It’s an experience,” Williams says. “It’s wine. It’s food. It’s culture. And it’s all on Cottage Grove.”
Selections by Westbrook and Julian, who both live within walking distance of the restaurant, complement the dishes. Sweet potato ribbons play well with the bright purple Mamba Juice (clairin with passionfruit syrup, Lucky Falernum, butterfly pea flower, and lime), while Uncle Yams Old-Fashioned (Uncle Nearest whiskey with housemade sweet potato syrup and angostura bitters and finished with a brandied cherry and skewer of roasted marshmallows) pairs with the seared watermelon “steak.” And the ripe blackberry flavors of 3 by Wade Cabernet (a wine by former NBA great and Chicago-area native Dwyane Wade) are a match for the grilled steak with grit cake.
“To be able to bring a wine list of this caliber to the South Side means a lot to me,” says Westbrook. “We’re trying to build something for everyone that’s ultimately for the people, answers to the critics, and is beautiful for us.” 4420 S. Cottage Grove Ave., Bronzeville