Reviewed by Danny Walker

My Fine Dining Standard – Avec (Chicago) *New Standard*

Visited: Late Saturday Night (3/16/2008)

Location:  615 W. Randolph St., Chicago, IL 60606 (Map)(Link)
Phone: 312-377-2002

Fine dining goes late night with a unique menu of small and large plates offering options for everyone at a lower cost than most fine dining restaurants.

Deeper Insights:

After flying into Chicago for a business trip, my team was looking for quality food late at night – after midnight. Avec was suggested by a local foodie website, and we were not disappointed. Upon arrival, a patron was outside for a smoke break and raved about Avec’s greatness and that it was the perfect place for late night eats.

The staff at Avec is very welcoming and accommodating – immediately upon entering, they took our coats and seated us. The menu is divided into small and large plates and is served in a tapas manner with the table sharing each item. With food that is leaps and bounds better than your typical 24-hour diner (sorry, Denny’s) and a more relaxed and wallet-friendly environment than most fine dining restaurants, Avec is a fabulous restaurant and an idea that hopefully pops up elsewhere (like L.A.).

Its sister restaurant Blackbird is located right next door and after enjoying Avec, I am eager to eat there when next in Chicago.


Attitude: Laid back fine dining.

Crowd: Predominantly restaurant workers dining after work.

Décor: Sleek wood paneling and seating creates a hip environment, while not making it feel like a log cabin.

Dress: Casual hip – collared shirts, designer Ts, nicer jeans, slacks.

Drinks: Deep wine list (about 125 bottles) with samplings from Spain, Portugal, Italy and France. Various beers also available on tap and in bottle.

Hours: Monday – Thursday: 3:30 p.m. to midnight. Bar closes at 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday: 3:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. Bar closes at 3am. Sunday: 3:30 p.m. to 10pm. Bar closes at midnight.

Line: After midnight, we were seated right away, but it gets pretty crowded on Friday and Saturday nights, which could cause a wait.

Music: Variety of music ranging from old school hip-hop to alternative country. Varied in genre more and more as the night went along.

Order to Service: 15 minutes, though some plates come out quicker than others.

Parking: No parking specifically for the restaurant. Most people take cabs or public transportation, as we did.

Payment Options: All major credit cards accepted.

People Watching: An older attractive crowd consisting mostly of restaurant workers.

Reservations: Does not take reservations.

Seating: Wood booths (a half dozen or so) with wood tables (and chairs facing the booths) line the length of the rectangular restaurant. There are also 8 stools at the bar.

Service: Everyone is very personable and helpful with pairing wines and recommending the more exotic beers.

Smoking: Patio smoking outside only.

Take-out: No.

TVs: No.

Water: Free.

What I Ate:

House-Marinated Mediterranean Olives (Assortment of seeded and seedless olives): Pretty straight-forward and a good amount for four of us to snack on while waiting for the rest of our meal. $5
Cider-braised Beef Short Rib (with curried carrots, golden raisins and pecan vinaigrette): This boneless short rib is so moist that it pretty much falls apart and melts in your mouth. The vinaigrette is sweet and tasty giving great flavor to the carrots. $12.50

Crispy Duckleg Confit (with sweet potato-parsnip hash, chili, pickled mushrooms and frisse): Having never had duck before, I was a little reluctant to try this, but upon tasting it, I was sold. The vegetables combined with the duck created a nice sweet flavor that you don’t often find with chicken. $12

Wood-fired Pizza (with housemade cotechino sausage, roasted garlic, oregano and parmesan): Less adventurous than other plates, but more accessible for all taste buds, this pizza tasted like a really good pizza with a fine dining flair on the ingredients. $15

House-made crispy dark and milk Chocolate: A perfect dessert for multiple people as it gives you delicious dark and milk chocolate (with crisps) in the form of thin wafers.
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