Avenue M? Or other recs--River West & East
Has anyone tried Avenue M? I just looked over the menu and lots of things sound really appealing. I'm looking for a place to take my dad for dinner next Tuesday night. We are open to other types of cuisines, but are looking for somewhere in the River East or West area. He'll be staying near Navy Pier. He travels a lot on business, so i need to impress him. HELP!!
I wrote this article for my office newsletter...I am by no means a restaurant critic...but Avenue M is our new favorite!!
You've GOT to try it...
Walking into Avenue M, located at 695 N. Milwaukee, you get a great feeling of space and openness. Super-high ceilings stretching to the second level balconies give the room enough area to absorb the noise of various types of crowds attracted to the place. The main room, which includes a long mahogany bar fully stocked with an excellent variety of libations, also has several booths. However, this area is more crowded and is better suited for the “see and be seen” type of crowd. The main dining area is separated from the bar area by thick velvet curtains, which are not only beautiful but serve to baffle the noise from the loud echoes of conversation in the other room. In addition, there is a large lounge area upstairs, with a more swanky “clubby” feel. Also the newly opened outdoor seating features comfy high-backed wicker chairs w/ plump cushions, gorgeous intimate garden landscaping, and the romantic glow of twinkle lights and candles– a perfect place to enjoy a cool glass of champagne on a summer night.
Now to my favorite part...the Menu. While Avenue M provides a more than excellent atmosphere in which to socialize and drink cocktails, their menu and service as a restaurant is sensational. We have been several times, and have not failed to be wowed yet. This time we began with a Maryland style Blue crab cake ($12)– perfectly spiced, moist buttery and delicious, and served with an avocado and tomato relish (a.k.a. guacamole) and homemade tartar sauce. Both were very, very good and complemented the crab cake perfectly. I also had half a dozen fresh West Coast oysters on the half shell ($10)—clean, salty/sweet taste and oh-so delicious.
We paired our meal with a velvety smooth Pinot Noir (DeLoach, 2004-Russian River Valley, Ca, $51), which seemed to go perfectly with every bite, from appetizers to entrée. We shared a Caesar salad, which was enormous— and topped with generous shavings of twelve-month aged Manchengo cheese. The Caesar dressing was light and flavorful, didn’t drown the lettuce, helping the salad not to be overfilling..
Then the entrée... Colorado Double Lamb Rib Chops ($34). Yes, they have other things—filet, salmon, pastas, and I’m sure they’re all really fabulous...(people have said so) but the lamb chops are absolutely out of this world, and you would be doing yourself a great disservice to not try them. I suggest nothing but medium rare. Add a side of buttery, tender Brussels sprouts, and I could have died and gone to heaven. Everything was amazing.
Dessert was on the house due to a small timing problem with the salad and entrees. After cocktails and some Pinot, we didn’t really mind, however the manager seemed to take it a bit personally. General Manager, Kevin Halimiak, apologized during multiple visits to our table, and offered complimentary dessert wine and desserts as their way of saying “thank you.”
They brought out two visually spectacular desserts– a chocolate peanut butter torte with caramel ice cream sundae and a banana crème pie with caramelized bananas. Both were respectfully crafted and sinful, but not being a fan of peanut butter and chocolate, the banana dessert was ultimately my favorite, and rightly so. The caramelized bananas added just the right amount of light crunchiness which released their sweet and fragrant flavor. And perhaps, did I taste a hint of a liqueur used for flambé? Mmmm. Also accompanying our desserts came two complimentary dessert wines. (Eda Hills Sauvignon Blanc, Late Harvest, 2000, Oregon; W&J Grahms 10 Year Tawny Porto). Absolutely divine. You must try this place yourself...and be sure to tell the manager I sent you :-) Rating: A++
I went to Avenue M about two months ago. The steaks were very good, as was the lobster and oysters of the of the day. The service was very rough - they forgot one of our appetizers and one of our steak orders. However, the manager was very contrite and comp'd both items. I imagine that service has improved. Overall, the food was very good. As for atmosphere, the space is fantastic but depending on what night you are there you may think you got lost and ran into the Gibson's crowd.