Bronzeville Winery is an elegant and welcoming place for fine dining in the South Side Chicago neighborhood from which it derives its name. Owned by winery Eric Williams and hospitality guru Cecilia Cove, he offers his clients hand-picked beers and cocktails, a vegan-friendly and sharing menu, and of course, a wide selection of wines curated by Chicago winemaker Derek Westbrook. The libations are presented against a contemporary interior designed by local architecture firm Future Firm, which specializes in community, cultural and commercial spaces, primarily on the south side.
The winery is Future Firm’s first foray into restaurant design. Company directors Anne Lowe and Craig Rechke reached out to Eric Williams in 2020 when they were tasked with designing the Silver Room, his mixed-use collaboration space in Hyde Park. The continuing spirit of uplifting emerging South Side artists was a key factor in the design drive for the Bronzeville Winery, which was designed as a place where everyone feels welcome and creativity flourishes. The long and narrow dining room is open and streamlined. The matte blonde and black wood palette is minimal, providing the perfect backdrop for displaying art without falling short of gallery white. A feature wall of wooden shelves displays bottles of wine interspersed with photographs, paintings, and collages created by local artists. It’s lit by custom pendants, designed by Chicago artist, Lucy Slivinsky, and a glass facade opens onto a patio. Patrons are served watermelon steak (most recommended menu items), locally grown herb salad and wine of their choice at wooden tables while they sit in poufs—in black and white—designed and manufactured in Chicago by Titobi Studios (a collaboration between Norman Teague Design Studios and Max Davis). ).
With a focus on showcasing the creative work of others, Future Firm attributes the project’s success in part to a lack of visibility. An established tenant in the new 4400 Grove complex on bustling Cottage Grove Street, the winery is designed as a revival of process-driven results, rather than static architectural conditions. “The way to honor Bronzeville and the Southside on this project was to support people who are creating a new creative legacy for the neighborhood in their own way,” Lowe said. “It’s an aesthetic that represents that without dispensing with, say, a historical brick detail or something that might be overtly architectural.”
Bronzeville Winery uses architecture to connect its patrons to the thriving legacy of South Side art, rather than as a means to an end. With wine tours of black-owned vineyards (choose from a range of moods, from tropical and charming to herbal and mysterious), the immersive experience is accessible and elevated, ensuring its success and longevity in the neighborhood for which it is named.
Alaina Griffin is a regular contributor to AN.