Do not confuse Chicago Winery, a new restaurant and event space opening in River North this fall, with City Winery. City Winery is a music venue in the West Loop and on the Riverwalk. Though both contain actual wineries, where grapes are crushed, fermented, and bottled on-site, the music at Chicago Winery, run by First Batch Hospitality, will be incidental: the focus will be on the wine and food.
Chicago Winery will be connected to First Batch’s other wineries and event spaces in Brooklyn and DC, but, says Dan Pearl, the company’s senior vice president of operations, it will be very much its own thing, and very connected to Chicago. “The food scene in this city speaks for itself,” he says. “It’s something we very much wanted to be a part of.”
In addition to the actual winery, Chicago Winery will contain a restaurant, still unnamed, and an event space. The kitchen will be led by Andrew Graves, a Chicago native who previously worked as a sous chef at Alinea and helped open Next and the Aviary. The menu will be modern American cuisine and will feature seasonal and local ingredients. “We’re passionate about locality and product,” says Pearl. “We’re building relationships with local farmers.”
Wine from the winery will also figure prominently in the restaurant. Currently First Batch sources its grapes from the West Coast and upstate New York, but Pearl is hoping that, once the Chicago operation is up and running, it will be able to use Midwestern grapes as well. There will also be a cocktail program.
The space, which was once a jewelry store but more recently was home to Brazilian Steakhouse Zed, is large, 24,000 square feet. The winery and the restaurant and bar, which will seat approximately 175 people, will occupy the first floor, while the event space, which will have room for 250-300 people, will be upstairs. Pearl is especially proud of the outdoor terrace which, thanks to a retractable roof and walls, will be accessible all year round. “The walls are all glass,” he says, “and you feel like you’re in the middle of the city, surrounded by the skyline.”
If construction continues on schedule, Pearl anticipates a mid-fall opening, but he promises Chicago Winery will definitely be up and running by the holidays and that it will stay for a while. “This is a community gathering spot,” he says. “We want the local community to coming in for lunch and dinner and a glass of wine, to have their kids’ weddings here. This is a long-term relationship.”
Chicago Winery, 739 N. Clark Street, scheduled to open mid-fall.