Wine Bar Review: Rootstock Wine and Beer Bar

A She Sips’ Introduction to Our First Guest Sips Post

He Sips and I are busy. Too busy, unfortunately, to hit all the cool wine bars, restaurants, and stores in a city as large as Chicago. We would love to go out every night and drink wine, but we have day jobs–and a one-year-old boy who makes it extra difficult to stay on top of the scene.

So, we enlisted the help of some wine-loving friends, Mark and Natasha Patla, who recently visited Rootstock Wine and Beer Bar in Humboldt Park. They wrote up a great review of the place, and then I went there last night to shoot some pictures; (it was packed for a Monday!). And I concur with them: Totally, a must-go-to-now wine bar.

My friends, Kelly and Sarah, loved it as well. We had a bottle of the 2008 Clos de Briderie from the Loire, a 100% Gamay, because sometimes it just makes more sense to order a bottle instead of glasses. And at $36 a bottle, this was one of those times. The bottle felt endless too, in a good way; probably because bartender/manger Johnny never let the glass stand empty–and I mean it.

We’ll go back to Rootstock soon because the food sounds incredible and the wine list had so many bottles we wanted to try. Thanks Mark and Natasha for your recommendation!

R E V I E W

Two of Chicago’s latest food and drink trends have been popping up in all sections of revitalized neighborhoods.  But what do you get when you combine them?  A gastro-pub plus wine bar?  The answer: Rootstock.

Located in a section of Humboldt Park (Augusta and California) that has yet to see a full-scale locale make-over, Rootstock enters into the gastro-wine combination on its own with an extreme welcoming corner bar, lets-be-regulars feel.

Started 15 months ago by former Webster Wine Bar employees, Rootstock is a quaint, unique gem-in-the-rough.  While not large, nor overbearingly loud, the atmosphere and vibe are very laid back compared to other wine bars that try to be snooty and upscale. 

The décor is designed so that all the furniture does not match but definitely flows together in a Craigslist- antique kind of comfort. When weather cooperates, there is a small patio out front that has limited seating as well.  Interesting photography and art adorn the walls that seem to match the overall theme they set out to create.

Now to the really good stuff: the food and drink!  The wine list, while not as extensive as other so-called wine bars, appears carefully chosen to bring multiple flavors from multiple regions into one grouping that you can keep going back to without repeats. 

It is a good sign when none of the labels are overly recognizable or can be easily tracked down at Binny’s. There is a good balance of what you can get via individual glass ($7-$15) and full bottle ($30-$190).   Additionally, there is a solid beer and liquor menu, if you are not in the mood for wine. 

For the gastro side, we see an inventive menu that fits with side items one would normally have at a wine tasting.  The charchuterie and cheese sections are well and good, but when you delve into the plates’ area, well, now were talkin’. 

Our selections included the frites with roasted garlic aioli and homemade house ketchup, onion rings with harissa dip; both had that gastro twist that differentiates them from typical bar apps.  A grilled endive (interesting and outstanding!) lolla rossa greens starter salad with grapefruit vinaigrette really hit the spot for our veggie fix. 

We also shared the Black Earth organic burger with bacon-scallion aioli, fiscilini cheddar and red onion.  This was recommended ahead of our visit, and it exceeded expectations.  Some other web reviews rave and call this “the best burger in town”; while we won’t go that far, it is certainly up there. 

Other items we did not have include a trio of crusts (seemingly flatbread pizzas) which others were partaking around us and have also been recommended.  Pork belly, scallops and fried quail round out the other main plate options.

From beginning to end we went with individual wines by the glass.  Standouts included the 2004 Domaine Marcel Deiss “Engelgarten” from Alsace, which was refreshing for the warm evening and the 2007 Felton Road Pinot Noir from New Zealand that was young and fruit forward as expected from that region.

The service was very attentive, and although there was a short wait, we were offered our first glasses of wine before we were seating.  Most of the seating is geared towards parties of two, and there are communal tables that are for larger parties or can be split amongst strangers. 

Although we had heard that Rootstock was on the pricey side, for what we ordered and consumed, everything was right in line with our expectations.

If we lived in the neighborhood, we would be regulars.

Bio

Mark and Natasha Patla are friends of He and She Sips who enjoy the pursuit of wine
knowledge through travel, tastings and literature.  Natasha has recently
discovered the wonders of Napa Cabernet Franc, and Mark typically sticks
to the seasons with new world whites in the summer and old world reds
in the winter. This is their first Guest Sips post with, hopefully, more to come.

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