When the Riverside Wine Bar closed its doors in August, you couldn’t have blamed anyone for thinking, “Well, that’s that.” The tiny tavern at 34 East Ave. in Riverside had been open about a year, the second go-round for owner Carl Choate, who had operated another wine bar called Parallel 42 in the space previously.
And, well, the wine bar concept was just not cutting it.
“When I brought it back, I noticed a distinct difference in the response for wine,” said Choate.
What he also noticed was that when he brought in a selection of craft beers to augment his sales, demand spiked.
“There was not the same allure [for wine] that craft beer has,” said Choate.
On Oct. 11, Choate and a new partner – Chris DiBraccio – quietly opened the doors to the Riverside Tap Room at 34 East Ave. The craft beer-centric business features 12 American brews on tap to go along with 12 wines by the glass. In addition, the space has been remodeled, with a larger L-shaped bar that seats about 15, along with a few tables.
“I always wanted to change the space,” said Choate. “So this year when we took a break in August, I said, ‘Let’s do it and get it the way we want.'”
Choate and DiBraccio have known each other since high school, when both attended Nazareth Academy in LaGrange Park.
Both ended up in the restaurant/bar business. Choate cut his teeth with the Lettuce Entertain You chain before opening Parallel 42 in Riverside in 2005. When that closed he ended up managing the beverage operations at a pair of restaurants in Hinsdale.
DiBraccio is the longtime manager of Brixie’s Saloon on Ogden Avenue in Brookfield. He brought craft brews to Brixie’s a dozen years ago and has become something of an expert on the subject.
“Craft brews are where it’s at, and Chris is the best around,” said Choate.
The two men began kicking around the idea of a craft brew-focused business in Riverside back in February.
The concept of Riverside Tap Room, said DiBraccio, is an upscale yet approachable place. Eventually, the craft brews on tap will be joined by wines on tap. Serving wine directly from the barrel is an increasingly popular concept in Chicago.
“It’ll still be a nice place, but we don’t want to make it unapproachable,” said DiBraccio. “It’s neighborhood, casual and upscale. We feel that’s what Riverside wants and it’s what we’re going to provide them.”
Choate said the beers – and, eventually, wines – will change throughout the year as seasons and styles change.
“We’ll rotate them in and out, so when you come in, there will be something new to try,” said Choate.
Riverside Tap Room will continue to serve food, although the menu will be tweaked to include dishes that pair well with beer.
The bar will open earlier in the day than the wine bar, beginning at 4 p.m., and will be open every day except Sunday.