Those shuttered storefronts and empty office buildings don’t lie: Despite valiant efforts, the Loop isn’t quite the bustling city center that it used to be. But there’s a silver lining to be found amid this particular tale of pandemic woe in the form of GoodFunk, a new wine bar and café that’s poised to become a destination fit for downtown commuters—should they ever return—and wandering wine enthusiasts alike.
Run by hospitality company Bonhomme Group (Beatnik, Porto), GoodFunk specializes in the vast and trendy world of natural wine, a catch-all term that generally refers to wine produced without the use of pesticides, herbicides or additives. Like many of its compatriots in the natural wine biz, the bar takes an almost philosophical approach to drinking, eschewing the “privilege and complicated language” of the wine industry for a bottle list that spotlights eclectic producers from across the globe, with special attention paid to regions not typically associated with wine production.
You get an immediate sense of the globe-trotting sensibility upon walking into GoodFunk, which is located along the Chicago River—next to its sister restaurant, Beatnik on the River—in a slender space outfitted to resemble a 1930s European cafe. Leafy potted plants twist above a 16-seat bar of pale pink marble; behind the bar, wine bottles, rows of tinned fish and baguettes arranged in baskets lend a more intimate touch, like the inside of a well-curated pantry.
This heady ethos and millennial-friendly decor might feel a touch too on the nose if GoodFunk wasn’t pouring some seriously interesting wine. Bonhomme Group wine director Colin Hofer takes a self-professed interest in “iconoclastic” winemakers, whether they’re using classic varietals like pinot noir and gamay or fermenting tea into a sparkling, low-ABV brew. That leads to a wine list that feels far more expansive than the typical “red, white or bubbly”—on a given night, you could try fruit wine from Sweden, a white blend from Maryland or zippy junmai ginjo sake from Japan, plus pages of other options.
Overwhelmed by the possibilities? I was, too. Luckily, staffers are quick to offer suggestions and chat you up about whatever you’re drinking. On a recent visit, my bartender waxed poetic about one French producer’s proclivity for crystals and wellness mumbo jumbo, a philosophy he apparently pours into his grape tending (it’s working, judging by how good my glass of syrah was).
You’ll want to pair your wine with some of GoodFunk’s top-notch appetizers, which range from veggie and jamón ibérico flatbreads to “tinned treasures,” a.k.a. fancy canned fish, served alongside bread from Cook au Vin. Don’t worry about wandering into any bad food and wine pairings, either: When I tried to order some spicy mackerel alongside the aforementioned syrah—an inky, mouth-wicking specimen—my bartender politely steered me in the direction of a breezy Riesling, a much happier accompaniment to the oily fish.
Visitors may encounter some difficulty securing a seat at GoodFunk, as the bar doesn’t take reservations and fills up fast, but a small front patio area offers the promise of spillover seating once summer rolls around. As snow began to fall and stray commuters made their way toward CTA and Metra stations, I glanced out the window at that patio—Pepto Bismol pink and cheery, even in the gray of winter—and imagined the sunnier, wine-filled days ahead.
The vibe: Laid back and boho-glam, with verdant plant life and Art Deco-adjacent detailing meant to evoke 1930s Europe. In the summer, grab a spot near roll-up windows or plan to meet some friends for an after-work drink on the patio.
The food: You’d be hard-pressed to cobble together a full meal at GoodFunk, but the bar’s fermentation-forward appetizers—salmon crudo swimming in mandarin olive oil and crème fraîche, anchovy toast topped with shio koji butter—are not to be missed.
The drink: Curious about natural wine? This is a great place to get your feet wet—let your bartender guide you through a rotating list of low-intervention wines from across the globe (seasoned connoisseurs will be pleased to discover the bar’s more obscure bottles).
Time Out tip: Swing by for a glass of wine and snacks before heading to your West Loop dinner reservation across the river.