There are a few things we continue to love about the West Loop. One of them is that despite the fact the neighborhood keeps changing and new restaurants continually come into the mix, the OGs stay the same.
Originally, Avec was opened with the intentions of being a wine bar in an area that was little more than an afterthought. These days, Avec is a headliner - a place for a great meal on Randolph St. at the front end of Restaurant Row. The menu is focused around small plates rooted in European traditions, but with some Midwestern twists that incorporate seasonal ingredients.
At Avec, you can always expect a few of the same great dishes - like chorizo-stuffed bacon-wrapped Medjool dates or taleggio and ricotta focaccia with a hint of truffle oil - as well as a mix of new and interesting items to keepthe feeling from going stale. It’s this combination of familiarity and innovation combined with Avec’s down to earth yet lively atmosphere that keeps us wanting to come back beyond the honeymoon stage.
Avec looks like it could be in Tokyo, which is to say it’s pretty different from what we’ve become accustomed to seeing around Chicago. The design is minimal, with the same sleek wood making up the floors, walls, and bar throughout the long rectangular room. Tables are communal and seat up to eight people, and you can expect every seat to be taken whether that’s with your own party or some strangers you’re forced to cozy up next to.
Considering the lively atmosphere, sitting close to people you don’t know isn’t a big deal. Chairs at the tables are also small stools without backs, which means if you’re there with only one or two others, dining at the bar is a great choice. And in reality you’ll eat wherever there’s space, because Avec doesn’t take reservations and even after twelve years is often packed. We suggest calling ahead to make sure the inevitable wait is at least manageable, and that way you can prepare for a cocktail or two before you get seated and seamlessly transition to one of the many reasonable bottles of wine.
Don’t overlook this new classic. Get yourself to Avec.
Arguably Avec’s signature dish, even more so than the dates. The focaccia comes stuffed with taleggio and ricotta cheese, and the truffle oil and fresh herbs give it a unique taste. It’s a large order and best for sharing between a group, but sometimes you need to overindulge a bit even for a party of two.
A well-done paella served with confit chicken, snail boudin, and clams. Consider ordering a smaller yet still hearty half portion if you’re looking to maximize the number of dishes you can try.
Grilled octopus over a white bean, endive, mint, and persimmon base. A hazelnut and lemon sauce adds a little extra bit of a flavor.
Dates, stuffed with chorizo, wrapped in bacon, and swimming in a piquillo pepper-tomato sauce. Salty, sweet, and comforting, all wrapped up into one.
Keep an eye out for branzino, which is often an off menu special. It’s usually simply grilled with some sort of basic yet flavorful seasoning, and it’s always a good option to order to have as a larger dish.
Brunch is served only on Sundays. Check it out.