Bronzeville Winery to add Black-owned upscale spot to historic South Side neighborhood: ‘We deserve that in our community’

·3 min read

As long as he has lived in Bronzeville, Eric Williams said he has usually had to leave the neighborhood for a great meal in a restaurant.

He is hoping to fix that shortcoming in one of the city’s historic Black neighborhoods with the launch of Bronzeville Winery this summer.

Bronzeville Winery, which will sit in a first-floor storefront of a new mixed-income residential building at 4420 S. Cottage Grove Ave., will focus on wine and comfort food such as lobster macaroni and cheese, and shrimp and grits. But there also will be many healthier options — plus live music and a market in summertime — in what is intended to be a community gathering space.

“I want to bring art, culture, wine and good food to our community,” Williams said. “We have to go to the West Loop or South Loop or Hyde Park for it, and we deserve that in our community.”

The Chicago Sun-Times first reported plans for the restaurant.

Williams, who also owns Hyde Park cultural and arts institution The Silver Room and has lived in Bronzeville for six years, is partnering with veteran hospitality designer Cecilia Cuff on the project.

Williams — not to be confused with chef and restaurateur Erick Williams, whose Virtue restaurant is on the same block on 53rd Street as The Silver Room — said he was approached about opening a space by the developer of the project, the Quad Communities Development Corporation.

He subsequently brought on Cuff, who operates hospitality design firm The Nascent Group, which has worked on multiple high-profile hotel projects including at Hyatt Regency Chicago.

Cuff said Bronzeville Winery’s focus on comfort food will reflect the Black experience, an “homage to flavors passed down to us and passed down through our heritage — the spices and flavors we grew up with.” But the restaurant also will offer vegetarian and vegan options, will partner with local farmers and will grow many of its own greens in vertical gardens.

Bronzeville Winery also will have a lengthy wine list curated by sommelier Anika Ellison, whom Cuff described as “one of the only African American women sommeliers in Chicago.” Ellison previously has worked at Spiaggia, Terzo Piano in The Art Institute and Vivo.

Cuff said the wine list will frequently showcase Black-owned vineyards and Black winemakers. The goal of the restaurant, she said, is to “create an elevated experience.”

“Part of breaking barriers is making sure we’re offering the same level of experience you’d find anywhere else,” she said.

Cuff said the restaurant will aim to hire staff from the Bronzeville neighborhood and Chicago’s South Side with a goal of creating “leaders and managers in the industry.”

Williams and Cuff said they hope to have the restaurant open by July or August. Mayor Lori Lightfoot is scheduled to attend a groundbreaking April 28, they said.

The space can seat about 120 people inside and 100 on an outdoor patio, but will open at about 50% capacity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The restaurant is investing heavily in cleaning protocols and ventilation, the partners said.

Williams, who has operated The Silver Room since 1997, said he hopes Bronzeville Winery sparks a trend of upscale restaurants in the neighborhood.

“Bronzeville is a culturally rich community, and hopefully this is the start of many other (similar) places,” he said.

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