West Lakeview Liquors is to liquor stores as High Fidelity’s Championship Vinyl is to record stores: Inventory so vast and varied it boggles the mind managed by a staff whose knowledge and passion is contagious.
And it’s very well organized. A little too organized for owner Kristina Bozic’s liking.
Currently, the setup at 2156 W. Addison St. is two separate stores connected by a doorway. A bounty of booze including beer, bourbon, scotch, wine, cider and mead hailing from Europe to just up the street fill one side. Food, cheeses, candy and merchandise are sold in the second store. And due to city regulations, the items are segregated like church and state, right down to the storage and sales.
Bozic is working on getting the liquor license for the second half of the store so the food and drink can intermingle on the shelves and transactions the way God intended. The process, she says, will include a community meeting with Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th), herself and anyone neighbors interested in attending. “I have no desire to sellout to Binny’s,” says Bozic who has run the family business for 10 years.
With the liquor licenses in place, Bozic plans to reorganize the stores a bit to focus on pairings, highlighting local cheese monger Dave Phillips’ (of cheeseandcheers.com) selections and add other items like sandwiches and bread (from Bennison’s Bakery in Evanston.)
But for now, Bozic and her staff of eight don’t mind the hustle between the two shops and are never too busy to share their expertise. The team travels to Europe to tour breweries and build relationships, which helps to enhance not only the store’s selection but also the staff’s knowledge and interest. In fact, two former employees, Beejay Oslon and Gerrit Lewis, met as coworkers at West Lakeview Liquors and went on to found Pipeworks Brewing Company in Chicago.
And while the selection and beer-geek mentality of the staff may be a bit intimidating at first, they are happy and eager to help customers pick the perfect potable for any setting. If you’re a micro-brew snob, a self-titled sommelier or someone just looking for a change from the Jewel beer aisle, the team at West Lakeview Liquors can help.
If a trip to Ravinia is in your summer plans, Bozic recommends drinks with a screw top lid. You can impress your blanket-mates on the lawn when you call it a “stelvin closure.” Bozic also recommends Vinho Verde wines which she describes as “light, crisp and refreshing.”
For relaxing at on your front porch or back deck, Bozic likes Ravenswood’s own Metropolitan Brewing, specifically their Iron Works Alt and Kolsch offerings.
If you’re headed to a big summer BBQ, Bozic says to think outside the box and go with a porter or a stout, which she says pairs well with meat. “Many people associate stouts with the cold,” she says. “It’s so not a winter beer.” She raves about Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Chocolate Stout.
Headed out on a boat this summer? One word: Cans. “Lots of breweries are offering cans nowadays,” says Bozic. She recommends Lake Barrington’s Wild Onion Brewing Company and points out their Hop Slayer IPA as a favorite.