Friday, March 06, 2009

Something's Brewing in Downtown Elgin

It was 1995. The era of flannel shirts, combat boots and a posthumous love of Kurt Cobain. The music was grunge. The fashion was androgynous. And the beer was microbrewed.

This was the year that Prairie Rock Brewing Company brought their artfully brewed beer and rustic elegance to downtown Elgin.

Just a year after the Grand Victoria began sailing the shores of the mighty Fox River, Prairie Rock rolled the dice on downtown Elgin. They were sort of a lone shark out there on the south edge of downtown, surrounded by the ghosts of car salesmen on what was once dealers’ row.

And the City took a gamble on Prairie Rock, too. It was more than a restaurant. It was a major player in the revitalization of Downtown Elgin.

And “P-Rock,” as I affectionately call it, played the role well for many years, becoming a favorite downtown destination and helping to shape downtown’s identity.

I have a lot of personal, special memories of P-Rock. Here are just a few . . .

. . . Having dinner with a group of friends before Elgin High School’s Turnabout Dance.

. . . Seeing one of Janus Theatre’s first performances up in the second floor loft space with the man who is now my beloved husband.

. . . Dancing like an idiot at my friend’s wedding reception in that same second floor loft space.

. . . Having a great time at the early Brew Fests when they were still on Prairie Street. Yeah, I don’t remember much else about that.

. . . Talking to people I never talked to in high school at my 10 year high school reunion.

. . . Singing “I will survive” with the girls on their famous Wednesday karaoke night.

. . . Plus many great lunches and dinners with new and old friends, paired with my favorite Vanilla Crème Ale, along the way.

Thank you to the owners, the staff, the brewmasters, the patrons and the City for 13 wonderful years. Prairie Rock’s slogan is so true, not only for the restaurant, but for what they did for the downtown . . . great beer really was the just the beginning.

In typical downtown fashion, as one door closes another one opens. There’s something new brewing in downtown. But it’s not beer . . . it’s wine.

Red Bar Winery and Bistro opens this month at 74 S. Grove Avenue, just down the street from the new Mad Maggie’s and Fountain Square condos.

Red Bar is an eclectic mix of restaurant, retail boutique and do-it-yourself winery. Owners Jim and Doris Canfield have created a unique destination where you can enjoy, purchase, learn about and make your own wine. They have completely transformed the space into a cozy and elegant lounge, complete with a red marble bar for which the place is named.

Please stop in and welcome Jim and Doris to the neighborhood. To learn more about Red Bar, give them a call at (847) 695-1659.

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