In an open-air ode to leisure dining as seen in seaside towns along the Iberian Coast, the makers of renowned Chicago destinations like The Violet Hour, Big Star, and The Publican, have launched a new rooftop bar concept offering sweeping views of the Chicago skyline, and a relaxed interpretation of the outdoor cervecerías signature to Spanish and Portuguese coasts.
Bar avec is located on the eighth floor of avec’s newly opened avec River North restaurant, and the pair are the newest additions to the award-winning portfolio of One Off Hospitality Group, a hospitality and restaurant management company in Chicago. One Off Hospitality’s portfolio also comprises avec West Loop in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood. Alongside an easy-going, social atmosphere, bar avec is serving up refreshing cocktails, weekend brunch, and a dinner menu inspired by the warm coastal climate of southern Spain and Portugal.
To create the new rooftop’s design and sensory atmosphere, One Off Hospitality’s executive partners teamed up with One Off Executive Chef Paul Kahan, Culinary Director Perry Hendrix, avec River North Chef de Cuisine Ross Henke, and Chicago-based interior designer Erin Boone of Boone Interiors. Though its design program borrows from existing avec spaces, bar avec’s 1,200-square-foot rooftop is dedicated to its peninsular inspiration and one-of-a-kind views.
“Avec in the West Loop is a restaurant that I’ve been going to since it opened—it’s one of my very favorites,” said Erin Boone, founder and principal designer at Boone Interiors. “I knew we wanted to incorporate some of the elements that are integral to the spirit of avec, specifically some communal tables and use of natural wood, and then when speaking to the group, they also wanted to keep some of the qualities of the original avec, but freshen things up for the rooftop and focus heavily on the Iberian Peninsula.”
These themes speak directly in details like colorful, circular light fixtures, blue and white Azulejo-inspired tiles, and Adico café chairs, bringing colorful bistro-style seating throughout the space. Terracotta cazuela earthenware warms up table service while wood banquettes and picnic tables by Loll Designs Inc. set the convivial mood for outings. Plentiful flora arranged by local horticulturalist Bottle & Branch is a lush addition to the open-air space and concrete floors, and wicker pendant lighting suspends from high ceilings to bring things to a more human scale.
“The view up there is incredible and while that’s wonderful and it can make the space feel nice and expansive, it can also make it feel a little cold, especially since it has steel construction. We just wanted to warm it up a bit,” Boone said.
The comforting effect of fresh greenery are felt immediately from the entrance, where a live rosemary trellis gate foreshadows the bar just beyond and to the left. The same elements that break up the large rooftop with details evoking the airy seashore also serve to create anticipation from one end to another, and from the entrance to intimate seating overlooking the farthest corner of the patio.
“I think the anticipation starts from the elevator,” said Donnie Madia, partner at One Off Hospitality Group. “You’re in a closed space and then you turn left and walk through an area that will bring you to the dining room. There will be little potted plants of sage and thyme surrounding you; you’ll walk through and then you’ll see the expansiveness afterward and the grand skyline looking east. I’m hoping everyone, when they walk through the planted area and see the skyline, will go ‘wow, I really want to be here.’”
The setting can serve as a brief or unhurried respite from the bustle of city life, with everything offered from quick drinks or sunny brunch to full-service dinner under the night sky. Avec classics such as bacon-wrapped, chorizo-stuffed medjool dates and salt cod brandade join dishes specifically crafted for the fresh-air setting of bar avec, such as wild halibut la plancha, tuna crudo with fermented chili, and fried mushrooms with spring onions and artichokes. These pair with easy-going rooftop cocktails and Basque country wines curated by One Off Hospitality Partner and Wine Director, Eduard Seitan, and avec River North’s Bar Manager Kate Smith, whose own portfolio includes Pacific Standard Time and Motel Bar.
Bar avec is open Monday through Thursday, from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. CT; Friday and Saturday from 4:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. CT; and for brunch Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. CT.
Text: R. Collins
Photography: Chuck Emery, Isabel Langheim, One Off Hospitality, Katie Yancu