LINCOLN PARK — Pairs are important. There's Batman and Robin, peanut butter and jelly, Yin and Yang and black and white.
Don Sritong, the owner of Lincoln Park's newest restaurant, Coppervine, is obsessed with finding the perfect pairings of foods and drinks.
Coppervine's menu takes away the difficulty of picking a drink off a lengthy list by offering up suggestions of three choices — a beer, a wine, or a cocktail — for each item on the menu.
"My long term goal is trying to get people to think of dining differently in Chicago," Sritong said. "When you find the right food with the right drink, amazing things happen and that's the name of the game."
The American menu is divided into small plates, flat breads, a cheese selection, cured meats, medium plates and large plates. Even the desert menu suggests wines, beers and cocktails for each pick.
The idea is to order multiple courses with multiple drinks, as the accompanying drinks are tasting portions (3 oz. wine, 5 oz. beer and 2 oz. cocktails.)
"For years Americans, Chicagoans included, have thought independently of drink and food," Sritong said.
Sit down, order a drink and then open the menu to decide on what to eat.
"That, for me, is depriving yourself of how much better your experience could be if you thought of the food and drink together."
The restaurant, which is located in the former Boston Blackies at 1962 N. Halsted St., has about 75 seats on the first floor, including nine at the bar, and an upstairs area that will serve as a lounge, dining room and a test kitchen.
The upstairs, which can seat 79, has its own bar, a series of couches along the windows overlooking Halsted, and its own kitchen where mixologists create syrups, smoked ices and rubs.
Eventually, the upstairs will serve as a testing ground for five menu items that aren't on the list downstairs and are being tinkered with.
"Guests who go upstairs can see how our process works," Sritong said. "And see what's in the hopper."
Sritong, a master sommelier, opened Just Grapes, a wine store that focused on teaching, in 2004 and sees his new restaurant as the next step in his mission of wine and drink education.
The obsession with pairings began as a child, as his Thai family served nearly every dish with rice.
As he assimilated to American culture, food pairings remained intact.
"I've always been that kid who couldn't have a chocolate chip cookie without a glass of milk. Pizza couldn't go without Pepsi," Sritong said.
Sritong was hesitant to name names, but said he wants Coppervine to stand out from the rest of the city's restaurants that offer pairings for upwards of $100 per person. He wants Coppervine to be a neighborhood place that can be visited many times per week.
"You don't have to go to these super high-end fancy places to experience it," he said. "This is kind of my life's work."