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Apr 28, 2009 08:28 AM

Blackbird vs Avec

My friends and I will be in Chicago over July 4th weekend. We want to try either Blackbird or Avec. Based on reviews and menus, I would prefer Avec but I see they don't take reservations. If we go on Saturday night, is it worth our while to wait for a table or should we just reserve a table at Blackbird? Truth is, two out of three of us cannot drink alcohol, so we'd be going for the food not the wine. Also, we're staying at the Wyndam near N. Michigan and W. Ontario. We'll probably take a cab to the restaurant. Will it be easy to catch a cab back to our hotel after dinner?

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  1. On a weekend (unless you go 5:30pm), I would recommend Blackbird. Prime-time waits on weekends can be in the neighborhood of 2.5 hours. I love Avec, but I wouldn't wait 2.5 hours to eat there (or anywhere for that matter).

    You should be fine getting a cab back to your hotel. There's enough traffic on Randolph on weekend nights that it won't be a problem. I've never had a problem getting out of there via taxi either during the week or on the weekend, and I've been to both Blackbird and Avec tons of times.

    1. The choice here is between the kind of evening and food that you would want. Avec's food is based on the Mediterranean tradition (Spain, Italy, Greece) while Blackbird is creative contemporary American (chef de cuisine Sheerin worked at WD50 before coming to Blackbird). Both places are loud and vibrant. Blackbird has more of a traditional dining format. At Avec you can sample a lot of items. Cabs are not an issue there. For me, it is worthwhile waiting for seating at Avec, but i am biased since it is one of my favorite restaurants in the city. If you can, try going earlier or later.

      1. You might also enjoy the Publican which was created by the people behind Blackbird and Avec. They take reservations, too.

        1. Between these two, I recommend Blackbird also. The reservations situation is described above; if you really want to work Avec into your itinerary, the best way to do so is to either go very, very early (they open at 3:30 pm) or on a weekday (although it can get crowded on weekdays too at certain times, particularly pre-opera). Also, you ask whether it is "worth our while to wait for a table" at Avec, which sounds like you're not familiar with Avec's seating. You won't have your own table at Avec; there is communal seating, with about 8 seats at the bar and about six (?) tables that seat eight, so after waiting 1.5-2.5 hours on a Saturday night, you would then be seated at an eight-top with five other friendly folks. ms. chow's descriptions of the differences in food are accurate; you can confirm this with a look at the sample menus on their websites, and

          Personally, I prefer some of our other contemporary American restaurants over Blackbird - notably, Cafe des Architectes and Aigre Doux, which are both walkable from your hotel - because of Blackbird's cramped seating, high noise levels, and small portion sizes, but that's not the question you've asked. The food is absolutely delicious at all three of these places, including Blackbird!

          1. Thank you so much. The menu at all three places look great. I'd be happy to eat at all three, but we only have one night available. I'm still leaning toward Avec. For a Saturday night, what time is the best time to go after the dinner rush? I think 5:30pm might be too early since we'll be doing a lot of sightseeing during the day.

            5 Replies
            1. re: thymewarrp

              Friday or Saturday nights, i usually go around 10 or 10:30, and have gotten seated within 10, 15 minutes. Just depends. I go there too weeknights around 5:30, and there usually is no wait.

              1. re: thymewarrp

                Wow, my experience has been very different from ms. chow's (although I try to avoid the weekends there, after learning the hard way). The times I've tried on Saturday nights, Avec stays packed with long wait times until really late. In addition to those who prefer to dine late (and those who have been waiting several hours from more typical dining times), they also get hit with an after-theater and after-opera crowd. (It's not far from the Lyric Opera House.) You might want to call them (312-377-2002) and ask what's typical; I've found their staff very helpful when I've asked similar questions.

                1. re: nsxtasy

                  Crowds from the Lyric Opera are extremely unlikely in the summer as the opera season ended in late March and opening night is September 26. Sometimes the hall has been rented out after the end of the opera season. After-theater diners from farther east on Randolph may be another matter this summer.

                2. re: thymewarrp

                  Definitely agree with ms. chow. If you go late (10 or 10:30) you should be fine. I've gone there after shows on the weekends and haven't encountered bad waits.

                  1. re: jesteinf

                    The other thing is that you can give the hostess your cell phone number and she'll call you when your table is ready. While you're waiting, you can hang out for a drink (or mocktail) at Sepia which is right around the corner or Meiji - a sushi place next door to Avec and Blackbird. I think both places are great, but we keep going back to Avec for its fun atmosphere. The chorizo stuffed dates are ridiculous as is the whipped brandade.