Check out perfect pairings at West Town Tavern


The perfect pairing of Chef Susan Goss and wine expert Drew Goss make an art of pairing food and wine, local and sustainable along with service and environment. They are the hands-on owners of  the West Town Tavern where guests can enjoy dining in an 1880's building with a comfortably classy, low key yet elegant interior.

Since 2002, the Gosses have focused on presenting hard core foodies, comfort food seekers, fine dining newbies and neighborhood visitors and residents with Americana comfort foods that can be enhanced with different pairings of old and new world wines at reasonable prices. To tantalize their diners with new culinary adventures, they even offer special dinners every couple of months. Those dinners include four or five courses and feature a different wine with each course for around $75 per person including tax and gratuity. They start at a set time and can accommodate no more than eighty diners.  (Regular fare entrees ranges between $17 and $25 with a glass of wine between $6.50 and $10.50.)


Susan and Drew work on menu planning together

Whether during regular seating hours of 5 to 10 p.m., Mon. thru Sat. or for special events, the restaurateur duo believe in the concepts of local and sustainable. Chef Susan says, "We support a lot of local farmers summer, spring and fall though during the winter it is harder. Green City Market is one of our major resources.  It is important to us to buy locally and be as sustainable as possible. Meat, fish and dairy industries  all make it possible to eat sustainably but people get stuck in habits. For example, we shouldn't be eating Chilean sea bass and we do not serve them here. We try to purchase fish from the Great Lakes that are line caught. We buy meat that is all natural, carefully raised with at least a nod to the environment .


Working in the salad prep area, Susan describes what she is doing

" We try to recycle everything. We don't compost because that is not legal in Chicago as yet. We make our own pastries and buy our French bread from Gonnella. Though we make our own ravioli, we buy pasta from a small suburban company. They do a better job then I could do!" she says with a laugh.


Drew talks about some of his wine selections

"We find that our diners prefer,  two to one, red over white wines," says wine expert Drew. "The same ratio holds for new to old world wines. New world includes wines from Canada, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and South America. They have a heavier concentration of ripe fruit, old world has a little less fruit.

"One of the defining wine moments in our professional life occurred when  60 Minutes did a piece on the French Paradox (November 1991 a French study stated that red wine was good for one's health). At that point, twice as many whites were sold over red wines in America. Within the next month, the market went in the opposite direction.

"In selecting wines, we  look for value... trying to keep things reasonably priced and matched up with the entrée part of the menu. We encourage people to be adventuresome in their wine selections. For example, while Rieslings are thought to be sweet, in fact, some are bone dry whites. Many are excellent with our menus. We have specials that we change every to two or three weeks to help our customers in their experimentations."

The West Town Tavern exudes warmth and friendliness from the time you enter the door. The exposed brick walls, the glow of warmth from the hardwood floors, the beautiful, charming pressed tin ceiling, soft lighting and friendly staff make it easy to feel comfortable. The ability to have a conversation with your dining partners without shouting is a welcome experience too. In addition, you may very possibly run into friends from the neighborhood.


Susan and staff prepare for an evening crowd

"We have a staff of twenty-three including five cooks. My sous chef has been with us for fifteen years and others for twelve and thirteen. What keeps people coming here is our consistency and much of that is because of our experienced, caring staff, " explains  Susan.

If you are checking your math, you know that fifteen is greater than nine (they opened West Town in 2002). So where were they before? What is their story?

They met in high school in Indianapolis, IN. With an Liberal Arts and Science diploma from Lawrence University in Appleton, WI, tucked under their arms in 1979, they discovered they had no jobs. Drew became a bartender and Susan switched between waitressing and cooking. In the process of making a living, they decided that they really liked the restaurant industry.


Many of the paintings in the restaurant are the work of Susan's sister Cynthia Low

"Drew's parents generously gave us each a six-month course to New York's Restaurant School." They returned to Indianapolis and started their entrepreneurial journey. It was 1983. It was the age of the Silver Palate (California) and Dean and De Luca's (New York). They were sure that what Indianapolis needed was Something Different Carry Out Cuisine. Indianapolis, on the other hand, was not so sure but the store remained open until the end of their five year lease.

With a menu that changed every week, they opened a fine dining restaurant called Something Different in 1989. Two years later they opened a bar next door. Once again, ahead of the culinary curve it was a tapas bar, Indianapolis' first. After the locals realized that it was not spelled "topless" and that small plates were great, it became a really big success.

During that time, they became the restaurant that represented the NFL  Indianapolis football  franchise in an annual culinary fundraising event in which Rick and Deann Bayless represented Chicago (Da Bears).  That pairing of pairs brought Zinfandel on west Grand Ave. on to Chicago's list of dining locations in 1993. "They (Bayless) wooed us to Chicago," says Susan. They wanted to tease American flavors as Bayless had done with Mexican flavors. After a while the Goss bought out the Bayless and Zinfandel continued until just before the West Town Tavern debuted.

The cook book West Town Tavern Contemporary Comfort Food is the latest new Goss venture and they hope to do more.

They are located at 1329 West Chicago Ave. Phone: 312.666.6175 and website.

NOTE : Our Urban Times is pleased to announce that they will be part of our site soon.


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