Rootstock Wine & Beer Bar

Critics' pick
Most Excellent Contemporary American Restaurants in Chicago: Rootstock
Humboldt Park

There’s not a whole lot to complain about in the world of bar criticism, except one thing: With new bars to hit every week, it’s hard to become a regular at any one spot. And after two visits to the low-key alcove Rootstock, I wanted just that.

The owners—Webster’s vets Tonya Pyatt, Jamie McLennan and Johnny Hap—are both knowledgeable servers and authors of a novella-length menu that offers loving descriptions of a selection of hard-to-find wines. (“The sexiest red you’ll drink all summer?” I can’t think of a better way to describe that deeply intriguing bottle of 2005 Domaine Mercouri Refosco.) And don’t be deterred by only two beer taps—there’s a well-curated list of bottles.

The same thoughtfulness extends to the gastropub menu executed by chef Remy Ayesh. These folks understand something fundamental: Drunk people do not want cheese plates and pâté (the housemade one here is a bit dry and mealy anyway). They want a PBLT: a plate of tomato, Bibb lettuce and pork-belly slabs so fatty they’re uncouth. They want a warm flatbread laden with La Quercia prosciutto and honey-covered figs. And if they’re anything like me, they’ll never want to leave.

Venue name: Rootstock Wine & Beer Bar
Address: 954 N California Ave

Cross street: at Augusta Blvd
Opening hours: Mon–Sat 5pm–2am; Sun 11am–4pm
Transport: Bus: 52, 65, 66, 70.
Price: Average glass of wine: $9
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