I will offer the following suggestions regarding AOC after 3 recent visits:
1. The bar seats are no better than the tables - service is the same at the tables and the overhyped bar seats, which often require a long wait and are only better if luck of the draw puts you near good people. The wine pourers at the wine bar and the chefs at the cheese bar are great people, but they are busy. Servers are uniformly excellent, regardless of the location. Lots of well-informed suggestions and saintly patience, especially in view of the nature of the multiple small plates you are encouraged to order.
2. Arriving near the 6pm opening avoids waiting for tables, service, and food, and it is my perception that the food is fresher.
3. Wines by the glass are not the greatest the world has to offer but they are priced very fairly and there are 50 of them. The list often includes well-chosen flights (the "summer" white Rhones are especially well thought out). Bottles are a much more impressive selection and at very reasonable mark-ups (though not bargain-level).
4. Go with the server's suggestions. Morels on polenta (so creamy it must be made with milk rather than stock), when available, is the best thing in the house; bacon wrapped dates with parmesan are exquisite; the white corn with mild chilies and the haricots vert with avocado are excellent. Skirt steak is very flavorful but a little fatty.
5. The cold cuts are the pride and joy of the place. If you're into the charcuterie world you'll be in heaven: Speck, prosciutto, and various hams are served plain and are exemplary. Cold cuts are an acquired taste - but the prices are reasonable.
5. The cheeses are hit and miss. Some are not quite ready, but the server will go a long way to screen for ripeness if you ask. I cannot get over the level of expertise of the servers with regard to the cheeses.
6. Dessert wines are reasonably priced, but still not worth it.
Don't expect romantic elegance or transcendental cuisine, but AOC can be one of the great food experiences in the City - go early and with a small group and rely on the server.
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