Photo Credit: Bronzeville Winery
Chicago's New Black-Owned Upscale Dining, Bronzeville Winery
When the founder of The Silver Room, Eric Williams, was presented with the opportunity to be part of a new development, he wanted to veer away from another retail space. Instead, he decided to fill a void in the neighborhood. The result is Bronzeville Winery, a new Black-owned eatery, wine bar, and cultural space tentatively set to open later this summer.
“Bronzeville is a very historically rich community,” Williams told Travel Noire. “The Harlem of Chicago is how I like to kind of get people to think about it: beautiful homes and mansions. It’s had its ups and downs throughout the years. But it’s still very solidly a middle-class, working class [neighborhood], with some affluent people in the community. There are no spaces to really go honestly. So, we have to go to the north side of Chicago or to the West Loop area — we go everywhere except our immediate area. It just felt like it was necessary to build something really beautiful in our community.”
For this latest venture, Williams is partnering with Cecilia Cuff of The Nascent Group, a hospitality design agency. Cuff says that Bronzeville Winery’s overall vibe is influenced by Williams’ Silver Room and the elements that have made it an integral part of the African American arts, culture, and music community in Chicago.
Bronzeville Winery will not be your typical eating establishment. There are plans for vertical, regenerative gardens to grow microgreens and produce in-house. The beverage program will also feature local ingredients. The menu will be “paying homage to a lot of the flavors that have been passed down in our heritage” but with an emphasis on whole foods.
“I think something that we identified from our neighborhoods is that we don’t have a lot of places where we can go and eat that are actually cooking with whole foods and cooking with things that could possibly be considered healthy or things that make you feel amazing after you leave and don’t necessarily kind of weigh you down,” said Cuff. “I think that was definitely a void that we wanted to fill in our neighborhood of being able to not only serve people but serve people things that kind of helped with their wellness and their health.”
Williams and Cuff have enlisted the services of one of the few African American sommeliers in Chicago to lead the beverage program. Anika Ellison has curated award-winning wine programming for restaurants like Spiaggia and Nico Osteria during her 20-year career in fine dining. She is excited about finally bringing her expertise to her community.
“Our approach to the wine list is going to be kind of all-encompassing,” revealed Ellison. “I’m not going to concentrate on old world or new world or anything. It’s the world of wine and how everyone fits into it. So yes, we will absolutely be making a point to bring on wineries that are owned and operated by people of color, have winemakers that are people of color, women, just a more inclusive list. Which, honestly is something people have done, but it’s still mostly done from a Eurocentric perspective. We’re trying to be as culturally inclusive as possible.”
While food and wine are the focal points of the project, according to Cuff, reinvestment in the community is what’s really driving the Bronzeville Winery.
“We have an entrepreneurial development program where we’ll actually be incubating minority hospitality leaders. From there, we have two-year programs where we teach them every part of a restaurant,” explained Cuff. “At the end of two years, they’re able to go from a busser to an assistant manager or a dishwasher to a sous chef and being able to place them throughout our industry. In the hospitality industry now, one of the biggest issues is finding placement. From my own experience of opening restaurants and designing restaurants in the past, the representation of people who look like me in the restaurant space, leadership isn’t really there. I also think it’s one of the few playing fields where if you work super hard, or you give it 150%. You can be an entrepreneur, and you can own your own space.”
The Bronzeville Winery will be located 4420 S. Cottage Grove Ave.