I had one of my best Chicago restaurant meals ever at "Avec" on a recent trip. Delicious mediterranean influenced food paired expertly with choice vintages, in friendly and convivial surroundings. "Avec" straddles the division between "restaurant" and "wine bar with food". It's a small place, and in place of separate tables patrons sit at long "banquettes" somewhat akin to cafeteria style seating. Not the kind of place you'd want for an intimate tete a tete, but it contributes to an informal, party-like atmosphere.
"Avec" is a sister - a younger sister - to "Blackbird" next door, with the same style of cooking and the same attention to detail.
("Avec" received a "Bib Gourmand" in the 2012 Michelin Guide to Chicago Restaurants.)
Favorite Dish: Sauteed summer vegetables, paired with a hearty cab/merlot from the South of France.
Spicy meatballs with rice - complemented perfectly by a rich Spanish rioja.
Avec is located on Randolph between Desplaines and Jefferson.
The cuisine is contemporary with a huge focus on the wine selection. Waitstaff are very knowledgeable on pairings and are helpful for recommendations.
The decor and ambience is open yet warm. Upon entering this restaurant, one may think they have entered a spa due to the thick woodblock tables and benches, the wood panels that go from floor to ceiling. One might also feel very close to the neighboring table. The restaurant management encourages a communal sense of dining. Although this might not be the most intimate of atmospheres, it is still a pleasurable place to dine or sip some wine.
Avec is also suitable for pre-opera drinks/snacks
Favorite Dish: When I was there I tried a delicious champagne and a selection of cheese and marinated olives.