Cliché as it may seem, “dinner and dessert,” can mean a blessed merriment for your taste buds. For a low key night out in Chicago, one merely needs to begin with a cheerful appetite, a little cash, and maybe some elastic waist pants, (no calorie counting on this trip). On this evening in Chicago, we start and end our night on West Randolph.

In the culinary scene, there is no other place more “with it” than Avec. This casual dining corner next door to its mother restaurant, Black Bird, has everyone waiting in line for one of their communal tables. The clean lines on the outside of the building are mimicked on the inside. As you enter you can’t help but feel as if you need to be wrapped in a towel with the sauna-like décor.

With little elbow room in the front, make your way to the bar. You won’t find much more space, but at least you can get a drink. The wine list at Avec is simple and easy to navigate. Select a wine from France, Italy, Spain, or Portugal.

When you are finally at your table, you will definitely be faced with a challenge. Everything sounds tempting. You do however have the advantage when it comes to the size of the plates and the actual style in which they are meant to be eaten. Everything on the menu is supposed to be shared, therefore order an assortment of small or large plates. Don’t hesitate to look at your neighbor’s plate during your selection process.

The food at Avec is predominately Mediterranean and is cooked in a large wood burning oven. The kitchen is open which allows you to watch meals quickly plated and finished in a theatrical manner of sorts.

All charcuterie items are made in-house and the cheese selections are stored in an actual cheese cave. From the chorizo stuffed Medjool date (could have sworn they were meatballs) to the falling off the bone pork shoulder everything you try will quickly become, “the best thing you’ve ever eaten.”

Every now and again heads will begin to turn as servers make there way to tables carrying the “deluxe”foccacia. Nothing beats the aroma of truffle oil on warm bread with a smear of taleggio cheese. Mmmmm…

Avec has wonderful wine, memorable food, and friendly service. Bustling every night of the week, no reservations are taken.

Feel free to partially walk off your dinner as you head to your dessert destination, Red Light. Just down the street Red Light serves a full lunch and dinner menu, but the star menu is that of desserts.

As with dinner, I would recommend ordering a variety of desserts to share. Simple and sweet the sorbet selection is delicious. Hopefully you will be dining on a night when the chef has prepared buttermilk cantaloupe. The sushi rice pudding served in a martini glass has just the precise amount of sweetness and creaminess it is easy to finish the entire thing yourself.

The signature dessert, Jackie’s Chocolate Bag, is not that of a beggar’s bag as expected. You will indulge yourself with a mini chocolate shopping bag of sorts, filled with magic. Inside there is white chocolate mousse, fresh berries and a tart raspberry sauce at the bottom.

Along with your “Sensual Sweets,” you should enjoy an “After Thought.” Red Light also features a broad selection of after dinner drinks. The dessert experience deserves a gold star. Open seven days a week there are no excuses for missing out on these blissful treats.

What & Where:
Avec
(615 WestRandolph; 312-377-2002)
Red Light (820 West Randolph; 312-733-8880)