Bronzeville Winery is a stylish, welcoming fine dining space in the South Side Chicago neighborhood from which it derives its name. Owned by Eric Williams and hospitality guru Cecilia Cuff, the winery offers its patrons carefully chosen beers and cocktails, a vegan- and sharing-friendly dining menu, and, of course, a wide-ranging wine selection curated by Chicago sommelier Derrick Westbrook. The libations are presented against a contemporary interior designed by local architecture practice 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. Firm principals Ann Lui and Craig Reschke connected with Eric Williams in 2020 when they were commissioned to design The Silver Room, his Hyde Park multi-use collaboration and event space. Continuing the ethos of uplifting emerging South Side artists was key to the design motivation of Bronzeville Winery, which was designed to be a space where everyone feels welcome and creativity thrives. The long, narrow dining room is open and streamlined. The blond-wood and matte-black palette is minimal, providing an ideal backdrop for exhibiting art without defaulting to gallery white. A feature wall of wooden shelving showcases bottles of wine interspersed with photographs, paintings, and collages created by local artists. It is lit by custom pendants, designed by Chicago artist Lucy Slivinski, and a glass storefront, which opens to a patio. Patrons are presented with their watermelon steak (the most recommended menu item), locally grown herb salad, and wine of their choice at wooden tables while they sit in flexible chairs—tan and black, respectively—designed and manufactured in Chicago by Titobi Studios (a collaboration between Norman Teague Design Studios and Max Davis).
With an emphasis on showcasing the creative work of others, Future Firm attributes the success of the project, in part, to its invisibility. An anchor tenant in the new 4400 Grove complex on bustling Cottage Grove Avenue, the winery was designed as an homage to process-driven results, rather than static architectural conditions. “The way to honor Bronzeville and the South Side in this project was about supporting the people who are making a new creative legacy for the neighborhood in their own way,” Lui said. “It’s an aesthetic that represents that without pulling from, say, a historic brick detail or something that may be overtly architectural.”
Bronzeville Winery utilizes architecture to connect its patrons to a burgeoning legacy of South Side artistry, rather than as a means to an end. Through flights of wine from Black-owned vineyards (choose from a range of moods, from tropical and enchanting to herbaceous and mysterious), the immersive experience is both accessible and elevated, ensuring its success and longevity in the neighborhood for which it is named.
Alaina Griffin is a regular contributor to AN.