"Wish you were here, In Beautiful Oak Forest!" proclaims the postcard on the front of each wine list at this new bar located at the intersection of 43rd and Ella. And that same fierce neighborhood pride emanates from owner and longtime Oak Forest resident, Scott Miller, who says in creating Plonk! he sought "to make the perfect neighborhood bar...especially for Oak Forest." In fact, Mr. Miller explains that he employed local artisans, craftsmen and merchants exclusively during the design and construction of Plonk! No surprise when talking to the cerebral Miller who meticulously planned and executed every single aspect of his North Heights incarnation.
Even the name Plonk! was very carefully chosen. Plonk is British slang for cheap wine. More than merely "cheap" wine, it is more truly evocative of thoughts of swill - the very bottom-of-the-barrel juice that was all but forgotten (and certainly neglected) during production. But Miller, a self-described wordsmith, "loves the word and its onomatopoeia." Admittedly, it is fun to say and quite easy to remember. But even more effective is the juxtaposition created when one compares the mental images conjured by the word plonk to the finely conceived and executed bar that is Plonk! Beer and Wine Bistro. Of course, that is also no accident.
Plonk! - located at the edge of Oak Forest near Garden Oaks - is easily one of the most enjoyable venues I have visited since moving north of the city. A classy, upscale atmosphere geared toward the residents of the neighborhood who enjoy savoring fine beer and wine with company in a clean, comfortable and safe setting.
In every detail there is a demonstration of Miller's perfectionist nature. The former wine director at the renowned Pappas' Steak House has spared no expense in bringing his dream to fruition. Every wine - from the simplest house wine to the most exotic selection - is at all times cellared in a glass library held at the optimum temperature of 55 degrees. The beers are also treated with love and stored in a specially designed cooler with a frosty holding temperature of 31.8 degrees.
The architecture of the bar also reflects Miller's mindful diligence. From the soothing granite bar top - once part of an actual riverbed - smoothed by running waters and lifted from nature to form Plonk's centerpiece to the impressive stone pizza hearth to the hand-laid hickory plank floors. Plonk! is progressive without being impersonal. The bar is spacious and intimate in the same moment.
The beer-and-wine list is equally well conceived. Every palate - and budget - is accommodated, whether you are an enophile or prefer a refreshing brew. An eclectic mix of tradition and hidden gems, the list will change with the seasons, mirroring the natural evolution of wine itself. Mr. Miller confidently intimates that his list will always have something for every taste and promises to help you discover your new favorite if you don't find what you thought you were looking for.
A food menu is in the works and the kitchen should be open in a month or two. Pizza will be a major focus, but Miller has no designs on becoming a pizza joint. Instead his culinary goal is to enhance "the Plonk! experience" for fans and followers. In the meantime, Miller and chef Michelle Salek will satisfy eager crowds by having "Steak Nights" periodically. The first such event was held September 8 for a sell-out crowd treated to bacon-wrapped filet, grilled shrimp and more, for a mere $20.
News and notices of upcoming events about Plonk! will be shared via email to subscribers. No advertising is planned. The only way to join the fun is to get on the mailing list by visiting the website and signing up.
The reason for Mr. Miller's passion is obvious. Plonk! is truly his life's work.
"Not only did I want to build the best bar in Oak Forest," he says "I wanted to create a place that I would want to come to every day." Miller is more than a bartender, owner, chef and host. He is a visionary and devoted Oak Forest resident bent on bringing his brand of experience to the neighborhood. Based on what I have seen, Plonk! is exactly what Scott Miller intended it to be.