WEST LOOP — With the hustle and bustle of Randolph Street and some of the city's top restaurants just one block north, the Press Room had to find a way to stand out.
So the new wine bar, which opened last week at 1134 W. Washington Blvd., focused on becoming a place for neighbors to unwind for a few hours and get away from the chaos.
"I really want it to be a relaxed, easygoing place," said owner George Saldez. "There's obviously a lot of great places nearby, so I'd like to think of this as somewhere that's really local."
The 70-seat wine bar is located on the lower level of a 108-year-old building that began as the Free Methodist Publishing House. It later became a casket factory before spending decades as the Museum of Holography until 2009.
The Press Room is an intimate wine bar with European vibes. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]
The current owners bought the three-story building in 2014 and spent three years turning it into the Publishing House Bed & Breakfast, which opened earlier this year. The building will also be home to the soon-to-open Solo Washington salon.
Saldez sought to honor the building's storied history with vintage accents and a large mural that pays homage to the casket factory. The name itself is a nod to the lower level's humble beginnings as the Free Methodist press room.
The area has been transformed into a lush, European-style lounge, with a cozy nook for larger groups, long tables and velvet chairs at the bar.
The Press Room has a private tasting nook. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]
There's also a private tasting area with collages of framed photos leading the way to the intimate space.
More than 60 wines are offered at the Press Room, from a $9 glass of pino gris to a $1,600 bottle of a 1991 Penfolds Grange shiraz from south Australia. The wine menu — which leans heavily on Australian selections, as Saldez and the B&B's owners are from Australia — includes robust reds, sparking wines, rosé, white wines, dessert wines and high-end reserve and magnum bottles.
Highlights include a 2016 Domaine Dupeuble beaujolais blanc, a 2014 Buil & Giné priorat giné giné and a Jansz brut rosé from Tasmania, Australia.
Customers can stop by to buy a bottle on their way home from work or take a bottle home with them at the end of the night. Beer and cocktails are on the menu as well.
The food menu ranges from snacks of mixed nuts and marinated olives for $5, to $70 oscietra caviar, which is served with a hard-boiled egg, herb creme fraiche, shallot, capers and blini.
Roasted carrots are made with yogurt, smoked feta, spiced honey and toasted hazelnuts.[Provided/The Press Room]
In between are cheese and charcuterie plates (served individually for $8 or as a chef's selection of three for $20) and roasted carrots with smoked feta, spiced honey, yogurt and toasted hazelnuts for $12.
Chicken liver mousse, hummus and burrata are served with bread, as is a country pate with brandied figs, port wine mustard, cornichons and a frisee salad ($12).
Cheese plates come with a chef's selection of three for $20 or individually for $8. [Provided/The Press Room]
Heavier plates include a braised short rib meat pie ($15) and roasted pork with kale, braised fennel and chimichurri sauce ($19).
For dessert, the Press Room offers a chocolate cremeux ($12) and a malted creme brulee ($10).
The menu comes from chef Jeff Williams, who previously worked at Sable in River North. Saldez worked for River Roast Social House, a Levy Restaurants eatery on the river.
But it's a different matter to make a place that's his own, Saldez said.
"You're really putting yourself out there, doing something you're passionate about," Saldez said. "And you have to be that passionate, or else you're just working, as opposed to I look at it as an adventure."
The Press Room is open 5 p.m.-1 a.m. Monday through Saturday and 5 p.m.-11 p.m. Sunday.