I was already distraught about the fact that it had taken me so long to get myself in here and after dining at Avec for the first time I was really kicking myself for not visiting sooner! From here on out I will definitely be making up for all that missed time without this amazing food in my life!
It was a Tuesday night and as the snow fell outside, this tiny space on Chicago‘s Near West Side was bursting at the seams with energy. Conversation and laughter filled the restaurant as wine flowed and food was savored, all to the soundtrack of Biggie Smalls playing in the background…what’s not to love?!
Being the tiny space that it is, along with their no reservation policy, Avec is usually a fairly crowded spot any night of the week. When we arrived there were a few seats open at the bar, so my two dining partners and I snagged those up and settled in. For a group of 1-3 the bar works fine, I usually prefer the bar if it’s just me or me and one other person because I love chatting with the bartenders and getting their opinion on what to order.
Avec has a variety of small and large plates that are all perfect for sharing-my favorite way to go! Their menu is filled with Mediterranean classics, pulling from regions of France, Portugal, Italy, and the coast of Spain. The twist? A Midwestern interpretation that makes these dishes interesting and comforting at the same time. We perused the menu over a lovely plate of house-marinated olives…the perfect first bites to give us a taste of what was in store.
Our first dish was the Brandade. No idea what brandade is? Neither did I. Per Wikipedia, Brandade is an emulsion of salt cod and olive oil eaten in winter with bread or potatoes. It was delicious….and now I know that I love brandade! We also ordered their much-loved Chorizo-Stuffed Medjool Dates and as soon as that first bite hit my tastebuds, I knew that this dish was the winner of the night. The spicy kick from the chorizo and pepper sauce combined with the slight sweetness of the dates and the saltiness of the bacon is a PERFECT combination!
As hard as it was to follow the dates, we thoroughly enjoyed our next few dishes as well-charcuterie and cheese boards and the refreshing brussels sprout panzanella to round out the meal. The brussels sprout salad was really fantastic-if you think you don’t like brussels sprouts…I challenge you to try this salad and see if you feel a little different about these mini cabbages afterwards!
Luckily one of my dining partners was the Epicurean, and he has been to Avec a time or two. Even though we were happily full at this point, he let us know that Avec’s version of the Nutter Butter was not to be missed. After quickly polishing off the four pieces in our first order, Kit and I exchanged glances and knew that a second order was going to be needed! You definitely do not want to miss these…and I guarantee that you can’t eat just one!
Bottom line: if you haven’t been to Avec, get there! If you’ve been but haven’t tried some of the above items, heck, even if you have….get back!