West Loop home to some of finest restaurants in city – and country

Avec

The West Loop is known for its casual, accessible eateries along Randolph Street, but it is also home to some of the best restaurants in the city.

It may be stretching the boundaries of the neighborhood a bit, but if Blackbird, 619 W Randolph St (312-715-0708), is considered in the West Loop, then the neighborhood can also lay claim to one of the best restaurants in the country. Chefs from all over the U.S. flock to this place and its more casual (but completely different) sister restaurant next door, Avec, 615 W Randolph St (312-377-2002).

While Blackbird is reminiscent of the white rooms in “A Clockwork Orange,” Avec is more like the inside of a sauna. It is tight-quartered, the walls are lined with cedar, and appropriately, it is always filled with hotties. You might even get to sit at the same communal table with one of them. You’ll probably be sitting at a communal table with someone; it might as well be a hottie.

The restaurant’s menus are as different as their decor. Blackbird is currently featuring grilled organic veal ribeye with cornbread porridge, rapini, bittersweet chocolate, black truffle and rosemary; and crispy buckwheat crepes with hazelnut “cassoulet,” fresh ricotta, pickled baby carrots and grilled abalone mushrooms.

At the more casual and less expensice Avec, where the menu does not change as often as it does at Blackbird, pretty much everything is Mediterranean and snacky and good, served as “small” or “large” plates for sharing. But make sure to score an order of the dates stuffed with chorizo sausage. You might dream about them afterward.

Speaking of “A Clockwork Orange” (we were, weren’t we?), another of the country’s finest restaurants, and one of the most intriguing, is Moto, 945 W Fulton Market Ave (312-491-0058). It, too, is housed in a minimalist space that is all at once stark, futuristic and possibly a little bit scary to the unintiated — much like chef Homaro Cantu’s food (and “A Clockwork Orange”).

Cantu is a talented fellow with lots of vision and passion. But I would not recommend Moto to anyone who is not a committed foodie or someone who is eternally curious or adventurous and has a couple hundred bucks to burn. To wit: On some nights, the menus at Moto are edible. Nuff said?

For a more recognizable experience, you cannot go wrong with a meal at one sixtyblue, 1400 W Randolph St (312-850-0303), where Michael Jordan is a part-owner, and Martial Noguier, a genuine son of Le France, is the chef.

The dining room is sleek and cool (fitting for a restaurant that spells its name with small letters) and you can see into the kitchen, where Noguier and his staff are whipping up delicious, straightforward cuisine, including the restaurant’s specialty, Delmonico steak with potato purée, thyme, caramelized shallots, watercress salad, and roasted shallot sauce. Match that with a big Napa cabernet sauvignon and you’ve got yourself a meal. For a lighter repast try the blue nose grouper, black cod or Alaskan halibut.

Check back for more West Loop restaurants tomorrow.

Blackbird

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