MEDITERRANEAN, SMALL PLATES, TAPAS/SPANISH | LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: friday & saturday till midnight, TUESDAY-thursDAY TILL 11
Antonia Asimis, daughter of a seasoned Randolph Street restaurant purveyor, might have aimed a sawed-off shotgun at the Mediterranean when planning her small plates place—the menu is all over the map. There’s even a nod to the more familiar environs of Halsted Street: flaming cheese. This unfocused approach was gnawing at me as my group dithered over the menu. But we enjoyed our meal, some of the highlights of which were broiled baby octopus with arugula and limoncello, lamb and feta meatballs, and a grilled sausage sampler that included a surprisingly light morcilla and a terrific orange-scented loukaniko. Most of these items were very tasty, and the amarena cherry tiramisu with imported ricotta set a new standard for me. Overall the restaurant is doing a fine job exploiting whatever familial advantages Asimis may have in sourcing quality ingredients. —Mike Sula
Wait Lifting – Jump ship from recession-proof restaurants with long lines—there are spots nearby that could use a boost. By David Tamarkin / Time Out Chicago
It doesn’t matter how bad the economy gets: There are some restaurants that not even an alien attack could make less popular. At a time when more restaurants are shuttering than opening, that should be a good thing. And it is. But in this economy, everything is a mixed blessing: Everybody who’s packing into these mainstays is ignoring a smaller, needier restaurant around the corner.
That’s why we’re calling for the city to start line jumping. Line jumpers don’t wait in lines—they jump out of them and into an open table at an empty restaurant nearby. The benefit is threefold: less congestion at the first restaurant, more business for the second and less waiting for everybody involved. THE LINE: Avec 615 W Randolph St, 312-377-2002 THE JUMP: Nia (803 W Randolph St, 312-226-3110)
Though less intimate and less ambitious with the food, Nia is surprisingly similar to Avec. Both restaurants employ a Mediterranean, small-plates format; both make charcuterie a primary concern (Nia has curated a list of worldly meats, including Spain’s justifiably famous pata negra); and though Avec has much more wine, Nia’s list isn’t too shabby, either. The one primary difference: At Nia you’ll have some elbow room.