Rigatoni pasta with braised lamb neck, ragu, olives and fennel pollen.
The sea breeze whispers in the backdrop. The smell of salt and sand and summer fills the air. The taste of the Mediterranean makes a home on the plate. The horizon is filled with views of the ocean and cerulean sky as far as the eye can see. You tuck into your meal. In your mind, you’ve hopped on a plane to the Greek isles, the coast of Spain, but really you’re here in Chicago at newly opened avec—the restaurant’s second location— in River North. It’s a summer holiday served on a platter by chef Perry Hendrix in collaboration with chef Paul Kahan, no travel required.
Winter citrus salad with burrata, radicchio and herbs de Provence
“Food is meant to celebrate good times, good food and good living,” says Kahan. And avec River North does exactly that with its open-concept dining room (a striking contrast to the original location’s uberintimate, narrow space), warm hospitality and shareable Mediterranean fare. “The rustic menus at avec focus on pure, fresh ingredients that offer bold yet balanced flavors resonant of good living,” he says, “taking cues from across the Mediterranean—from the sun-drenched wine regions of southwestern Europe to North Africa and the Middle East.”
The menu celebrates “soul-warming,” as the chef describes, dishes such as chorizo-stuffed medjool dates; slow-roasted pork shoulder; rigatoni pasta with braised lamb neck ragu, olives and fennel pollen; and pizza with smoked lake fish, garlic cream, marinated kale and charred lemon—all accompanied by small-production wines from France, Italy, Spain and Portugal.
Smoked pork coppa with apples and candied black walnuts
“Like we invested in the West Loop 17 years ago,” Kahan notes, “we will continue to invest in our River North neighborhood, maintaining real relationships with our neighbors, nearby businesses and the friends we’ll serve for years to come. … This is another chapter in the long story of avec.” 141 W. Erie St., avecrestaurant.com