A Peak into Chicago's New Hot Spot: The Aviary

This Wednesday, two girlfriends and I went to Grant Achatz's highly-anticipated, new cocktail lounge, The Aviary (955 W Fulton Market), and it definitely lived up to its hype.

I was impressed by EVERY aspect: the food, the drinks, the atmosphere, the service--even the bathrooms. Achatz and his team--in true Alinea-like fashion--have paid attention to every detail. Your bill comes delivered on notecard created on The Aviary stationary. Your wait staff will know all the facts of each drink you order; for example, there are 1,200 tiny cinnamon ice balls in the Tiki, which infuse the drink with wonderful flavor as they melt. And each drink is placed in the perfect vessel to enhance its look and taste. The cocktails are almost too beautiful to drink; they are works of art, really. (See photo gallery)

I recommend visiting The Aviary as soon as possible--and visiting it as often as you can afford because all the cocktails looked worth a try. There's a drink called Lemon that we didn't try, but part of it is a bottle of beer in a paper bag (how's that for detail?). If you're planning a trip to The Aviary soon, here's some advice to help make your experience more enjoyable:

When to Go

Wednesday after work. My friends and I arrived a 7:15 pm and only stood outside for 10 minutes. The Aviary is closed Mondays and Tuesdays, so Wednesday is a good mid-weekday to go. I expect the weekend nights are crowded.

What to Wear

I wore jeans and heels--but felt a bit underdressed, but not out of place. Several women were wearing dresses. Some men had jackets on. Jeans are fine, but dress them up. When I go back, I won't wear jeans though.

Split Drinks to Save Money

Certain drinks like the Blueberry and the Rooibos lend themselves to sharing. The wait staff will bring everyone in your group his or her own glass, and everyone gets a taste. Not only was this totally acceptable, but our waitress actually recommended it.

Don't Expect to Eat a Meal

The "Bites," the food on the menu, come in trios of small portions (think: amuse-bouche). We ordered Lobster and Foie Gras--and while they were wonderful, they're not going to fill you up. They are literally a bite a food and only cost $3-4 for three. Our waitress handed us napkins, saying, "There's no silverware in the house, you'll need them!" And she was right; we used our hands.

Thanks to our new friend Mark, who sat with us, we were able to taste some of the dessert bites too. Make sure you try the Brioche. One of the most incredible single bites of food I've ever had. The vanilla cream will burst in your mouth and coat it the way a good wine does.

How Much You'll Spend

For our party of 3, we spent almost $150 (so $50 each). That was ordering a drink a piece separately then sharing two drinks and sharing two orders of bites. Definitely worth it, but you're not spending money on the food. Drinks run $15-$25.


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