avec is one of my favorite restaurants in Chicago. No frills, with consistently outstanding food and drink, each and every time. Open since October, 2003, and located in Chicago’s West Loop, avec was originally conceived as a wine bar, featuring boutique vineyards of southwestern Europe. However, with its Mediterranean-inspired dishes, the food at avec stands on its own. Dishes are designed for sharing, with the menu divided into small plates, large plates, salumi, and cheese. Over 130 wines are available, 30 of which are offered by the glass.
avec doe not take reservations, so unless you go close to opening time, be prepared to wait. The hostess will take your name and telephone number and will call you when your table is ready. The bar at avec is small and will be filled with diners, so plan to go to one of the nearby restaurants for a drink to bide the time. When your table is ready, it will likely be shared with other diners, as the dining room consists of five communal tables, each seating eight diners. The stainless steel bar gives 18 additional guests a front row seat to the action in the galley kitchen. The design of the restaurant is minimalistic, with cedar walls, a hickory floor, and red oak benches. The focus here is on the food, wine, and conversation.
Some of the dishes at avec are legendary. No trip to avec is complete without an order of the chorizo-stuffed medjool dates with smoked bacon and piquillo pepper tomato sauce. Bread is served on the side to sop up what remains of the exquisitely flavorful tomato sauce. avec put bacon wrapped dates on the map, and on every passed appetizer menu around. None, however, come close to duplicating the amazingness of this dish.
My new favorite, however, is the deluxe focaccia with taleggio cheese, ricotta, truffle oil, and fresh herbs. How I have never tried this before is beyond me. It has been over a week since I have eaten this dish and my mouth still waters each time I think about it, which is about every five minutes. The smooth, creamy, and flavorful cheese is smeared between the layers of fresh focaccia, and drizzled with truffle oil and herb. Words cannot describe just how amazing it tastes. Just go and try it for yourself.
Another favorite is the charred octopus. The preparation changes with the season, and on our visit, it was prepared with bright grapefruit, crunchy celery, salty marcona almonds, and refreshing mint. It was wonderful.
To round out our meal, we needed our vegetables, so we selected the charred cauliflower tabbouleh with farro, winter citrus, radish, green olives, and tahini. The flavors were wonderful, especially with the addition of the nutty tahini, and, for a vegetable dish, was quite hearty with the farro.
avec also features a number of specials written on a chalkboard behind the bar which are always worth a look, including a whole roasted fish, as well as a meat option. Desserts are listed there, too, including various gelato flavors.
avec recently began brunch service on Sundays, and you better believe I will be checking it out very soon. Breakfast paella, anyone?
615 West Randolph Street, Chicago 60661