Avec in Chicago

The pork shoulder and its cooking pot at Avec in Chicago.
The pork shoulder came in its cute cooking pot.

One of the best things about being on vacation, in my opinion, is the excuse to drink wine at any given time, on any given day, for no reason at all.  A midweek lunch or a mid-shopping break :: yes I’ll have wine with that.  One of the highlights of my Chicago trip was seeing the Book of Mormon on Broadway, a hilarious musical that hits all too close to home for those of us living in Utah.  Luckily they served wine at the theater, which eased the blow that my hometown of Salt Lake City was a running joke throughout the play.

The cozy, wood-lined interior of Avec in Chicago.
The cozy, wood-lined interior of Avec.

After laughing ourselves silly at the Book of Mormon, then realizing that we had to return to the butt of the joke in a few days, my friend Meagan and I hunted down Avec for a late Sunday dinner and, of course, more wine.  I can’t decide if the tiny restaurant is more wine bar or more restaurant, as the wine options far outnumber the edible ones.  But what I do know is that Avec was the best meal we had in Chicago; one I won’t be forgetting for a long time.

Glowing glasses of Domaine de Terra Vecchia rosé wine at Avec in Chicago.
Glowing glasses of Domaine de Terra Vecchia.

Meagan and I saddled up to the counter and picked a rosé wine bright enough to keep us reminiscing about summer but deep enough to remind us that fall was definitely here.  Not surprisingly for a place that doubles as a wine bar, it paired perfectly with every dish we ordered.

Oyster mushrooms at Avec in Chicago.
These mushrooms were amazing.

Avec’s dishes cover a wide range of tastes and sizes, covering the small plates/shareable format and large entrees.  Our server was bluntly honest, not afraid to tell us to skip a certain dish.  (I love that.)  We started with Oyster Mushrooms ($14) with roasted artichokes, goat cheese feta, endive and a black garlic vinaigrette.  This dish was good enough to convert me to vegetarianism, with savory mushrooms and crisp endive playing with the feta and cilantro.  Perfect.

The hanger steak at Avec in Chicago.
A summery, southwest take on steak.

Next we had the Butcher’s Steak ($18) with summer piperade, avocado, scallion and black mustard seed vinaigrette.  This was a much more familiar dish than the mushrooms so it didn’t deliver quite the same surprising kick, but was delicious nonetheless.  The balance of sweetness, savoriness and wonderful meatiness all played well with one another.

Pork shoulder, clams, rice, green beans and cilantro at Avec in Chicago.
The pot of pork shoulder.

Then we shared a large plate, the wood-roasted Pork Shoulder ($21) served in its cooking pot with bomba rice, clams, green beans and smoked paprika.  This was mind-blowing.  I loved the seafood flavor of the clams in contrast with the pork shoulder, something I’ve never had together, and the comfort-food style of rice and green beans mixed in.

The pork shoulder and its cooking pot at Avec in Chicago.
The pork shoulder came in its cute cooking pot.

When we initiately ordered, we hoped to have room for another small plate or dessert but the three dishes had us full to the brim.  So we finished our wine wishing we could eat more (isn’t that always the case?) and whisked ourselves into the Chicago night, still laughing about the Book of Mormon and already reminiscing about the pork shoulder at Avec.  A perfect night, in my opinion.

Go to Avec for :: A casual, wine bar atmosphere serving excellent food paired with outstanding service.  Notes :: Reservations are not accepted.  Avec is open seven days a week, Sunday-Thursday 3:30 p.m.-midnight, Friday-Saturday 3:30 pm-1 a.m. and Sunday brunch 10 a.m.-2p.m.  Avec is strictly a bar on Sundays from 2 p.m.-3:30 p.m., when the kitchen is closed.  Follow Avec on twitter or instagram and friend them on facebook for updates.

Avec on Urbanspoon

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