Avec

Avec scored a hat trick last night.

Indeed, I was not disappointed on my third visit to this Chicago restaurant. Here’s why:

  • “Deluxe” focaccia with Taleggio cheese, truffle oil and fresh herbs.
  • Wood-oven braised pork shoulder with Prince Edward Island mussels, braised tripe, tomato and savory streusel
  • Chorizo-stuffed Medjool dates with smoked bacon and piquillo pepper-tomato sauce
  • Farro salad with roasted peppers, rutabaga, blackeyed peas, fried egg and salsa verde vinaigrette
  • Roasted sunchoke crostini with shaved Brussels sprouts, radishes and truffle vinaigrette
  • Roasted Nichols Farm carnival squash with arugula pistachio pesto, shaved apples, podda and cider
  • Braised Berkshire pork cheeks with housemade blood sausage, cabbage, barley and artichokes
  • Crispy veal liver and soubise with mustard greens and lemon

Before you accuse me of my favourite sin, I do think it’s important to note that Avec – which modestly calls itself a wine bar – specializes in small plates. As such, everything is meant for sharing. And share we did.

While the chef changes the menu frequently, the focaccia has become a bit of a staple. For good reason: it’s a stand-out. Paper thin, grilled, full of melty, delicious taleggio cheese. It’s a revelation.

So, too, frankly, were the chorizo-stuffed dates. Too often, the date is the star of such a dish; not this time, however. The date played second-string to the spicy sausage. A welcome change, to be sure.

What I love most about Avec – aside from the food, of course, which is absolutely first-rate-amazing – is the atmosphere.

Lined completely in cedar, one feels like they’re dining in a sauna. The long, narrow space barely has room for  the bar that stretches along one side of restaurant and a series of bench tables that stretch along the other. It’s communal dining at its finest.

Even better, their strict “no reservations” policy means the place is always hopping, electric. Which is a good thing: digesting such culinary delights requires an incredible amount of energy!

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