It wasn’t so long ago that Lincoln Park’s Clybourn Corridor was a stretch of small storefronts and shot-and-a-beer watering holes. The former were usually drab; the latter featured patrons belching and hollering their way toward the exit after last call.
Things have improved in this neighborhood over the years. Though not trying to compete with eastern Lincoln Park’s tony scene, the “Corridor” is one area in Chicago where a sprucing up doesn’t also produce any attendant arrogance. Relaxing with a good drink and a quality meal should be one of life’s calming pleasures – something that doesn’t need to be spoiled by drunken loudmouths, stuffy service or people putting on airs.
Red Flame Pizzeria has has achieved this happy medium. Formerly Clybar, Red Flame features twice-cooked (grilled-then-baked) gourmet pizzas. It’s a different twist on a dominant Chicago staple. It also touts an extensive wine selection, which is a pleasant departure for a Corridor establishment. But the list isn’t meant to be brandished by some pontificating expert. It simply – and deftly – merges good quantity, great quality and (imagine this) value wine.
Continue reading on Examiner.com: Red Flame Pizzeria re-christened with value wine – Chicago Budget Wine | Examiner.com
“When it was Clybar, it was just a bar where people tied one on and went home,” says owner Marty Gallagher. “I wanted to make this more of a family-friendly place – and Red Flame is a destination for people to come to by car, and from right around the corner.”
Opened this past December, Red Flame has a certainly set the bar higher than its predecessor. Value Wine Chicago sat down with the Corridor’s new purveyor of pizza to discuss the emergence from “bottoms up” to destination dining. With such an extensive wine list, it was apropos that a little industry talk was included:
Value Wine Chicago: You offer a lot of different wines – from the Old World, California, the Southern Hemisphere, etc. How did you end up choosing your 40 under $40?
Marty Gallagher: When it came to choosing the wines, we got together with five or six wine distributors – smaller distributors that have good-quality wines at reasonable prices. There are some wines that, per industry standard, we could be selling for more, but we want to keep them under $40 so we can maintain that promotion. Yet, I didn’t want to have 15-plus wines right at $39 either – that really defeats the purpose. So, when you come in and see 40 under $40, people can have an appetizer, a pizza and a bottle of wine and end up with a bill of $40-$50 per couple.
VWC: Some would argue that a number of wines on your list aren’t considered the typical “pizza” wines (read: bold and/or Italian). What’s behind say, offering a lighter red, such as the Quintay “Clava” Pinot Noir from Chile?
MG: When I selected the wines, I wanted to have a lot of representation from all over the world. I felt that having most of the wines from Italy, the Southern Hemisphere and the United States accomplished this. Personally, I like lighter reds. I wanted to make sure there was a wine for person whose palate was more accustomed to these types of wines, rather than the tannic, heavy wines.
VWC: Any other trends you’re noticing? Are there any other hot sellers or consumer habits worth noting?
MG: Washington State has become hot lately. We have five wines from Washington, and our customers really like the Velvet Devil Merlot and the Boom Boom Syrah from Charles Smith. I’ve also found that the sales of the Pinot Noirs – which isn’t thought of as your usual pizza wine varietal – have been very brisk here. The Lucky Star Pinot Noir has been really hot.
VWC: What are your personal favorites priced under $15 per bottle at retail?
MG: For a red, I really like the Cannonball Cabernet Sauvignon from California. It’s really approachable and smooth. I would have it with the SMOG pizza – sausage, mushrooms, onion and green pepper. It’s earthy enough to complement the mushrooms and balances the zestiness of the sausage. My favorite white wine – by far – is the Yalumba Sauvignon Blanc from Australia. It’s crisp, fresh and has a lot of green apple. I enjoy really cold white wine, and this one just jumps out at me, especially when it’s well chilled. It’s great with white pizza, but I’d also recommend it with Quatro 15 (four cheese).