Sepia or Avec?
I currently have a Friday evening reservation at Sepia but would like some input from local hounds. It will be me, sis, DHs & BIL's 40th (I'm visiting from SF area). Sis recently moved to Chicago area & is unfamiliar with restaurants there. BIL recently went to Avec after work & enjoyed it; haven't seen any recent reports of Sepia (only brunch). We would appreciate great meat dishes as well as fish (one is allergic to shellfish & doesn't eat beef & another doesn't like seafood). Thank you.
Both are really good. I prefer the food at Avec slightly and go there more often. In this case, you might consider the atmosphere. Avec is kind of loud, shoved together, the kind of place where the people next to you are dominating your conversation because they can't get enough of their new iPhone. Sepia is quieter and more relaxing, great cocktails, better suited for conversation.
The food is fantastic at Avec, but they don't take reservations. Obviously, the more people in the party, the longer the wait (I went on a Saturday at 7.00 with 6 people and the wait was 1.5 hours) However, you can put your name & cell number down at Avec, then walk around the corner to Sepia for drinks while you wait (assuming you want to wait). I've only had appetizers at the bar at Sepia but they were very good. Drinks at Sepia are great too. Agree with Abhalsey on the atmosphere descriptions.
You really can't go wrong either way!
Avec if you're willing to: (1) wait for a table and (2) practice some patience with the service (it's very busy). In my opinion, Avec is one of two truly unique urban dining experiences in Chicago (Schwa being the other). The cuisine is spectacularly inventive and energy from the kitchen is overwhelming. The menu is also pretty flexible in terms of meat and fish offerings. The chorizo-stuffed madjool dates could be the best dish this town has to offer.
On the other hand, Sepia is certainly a nice place with solid food and a great wine list. On the two occasions I have dined there, the atmosphere struck me as being somewhat sterile. If you want a quiet evening, Sepia is your place.
Also, given the communal set-up at Avec, a party of 6 will actually work to your advantage from a conversational perspective. If you want to eat by 8 or 8:30 on a Friday, you should probably get your name in no later than 6:45. The wait list really expands after 7pm. If the weather is pleasant, there are a few "standing tables" outside at Avec where you can wait and drink. Or, there's a pretty spacious bar two doors down at Meiji as another alternative.
Thank you all, I will keep my Sepia reservations. Since this will be our one night out w/out the kids, a quieter atmosphere for conversation makes sense. Just wanted to make sure the food was good. And "great cocktails" is always a plus.
p.s. DH & DD still haven't gotten enough of my new iphone:-) The first thing they told me was "you can look up chowhound anywhere!". Looking forward to this feature during my upcoming trip.
Sorry for the late reply but we did go to Sepia & had a great time. Food was good but surprisingly rich with decent portions so didn't really need some of the items our server had "upsold". DH & BIL were in a celebratory mood so they kept saying "sure" to everything :) The flatbread with bacon was a disappointment (actually bread wasn't so thin therefore heavy app) but highlight of the meal & probably our trip were side order of the duck fat fried potatoes. They are smart to keep that as a separate order!
We're returning this Summer & hope to try Avec. Thank you for your help Chicago.