When Jason Prah and Scott Harney decided on the name Bascule Wine Bar for their University Village spot, they did so with intention. The French “bascule” refers to a style of counterweight bridges, most prominently found in Chicago. For Prah, the name represents the idea of taking someone from one place to another. “Whether that be old-world to new-world wines, cocktails to wine, different types of cuisine … it’s really representing what we’re trying to do here.”
Prah and Harney, sommeliers who began their partnership and longtime friendship at Enology (now Eno Wine Bar), stocked Bascule’s wine list with labels that span the world from France to Uruguay — plus six domestic varietals on tap — and range in price from $24-$180 ($10-$13 by the glass).
Complementing the wine is a seasonal American bistro-style menu created by Michael Burkauskas (Luxbar, Gibson’s Group), featuring dishes like short ribs with gnocchi, mushrooms and horseradish gremolata (below, $15) and Maine mussels with hops butter and fennel pollen ($12).
Here’s what else you can expect at Bascule Wine Bar:
Smart sip: Prah sources bottles that may not have name recognition but are unique finds, like the 2008 Movia Pinot Grigio from Brda, Slovenia ($71), and peppers the list with narrative, describing the winemaker, vineyard or region. He and manager Charles Schneider (Benny’s Chop House) help customers navigate the selection, and make choosing a wine an educational and interactive experience.
The European way: “We wanted people to have a sophisticated experience from late afternoon to late evening,” says Prah. “The Italian idea of [being] open all day long, and [people] can drift in and out.” To achieve that, the spot serves food from 3 p.m.-1 a.m. (menu is abbreviated after 11 p.m.).
Love locked down: The eclectic interior mirrors the “bascule” theme; one feature takes influence from the Parisian Pont des Arts, a pedestrian bridge know for its “love locks.” Customers are encouraged to bring their own padlocks and lock their love, secret or promise on a chain-link fence inside the restaurant.
Wine-inspired cocktails: Try the unoaked chardonnay cocktail with flavors of lemon-green apple, fig, pineapple, passion fruit, flint, jasmine and almond ($10). Plus, each cocktail is served with a taste of wine that relates to it.
1421 W. Taylor, (312) 763-6912; Basculewinebar.com
Photos by Sarah Freeman