When Next and Aviary first opened, we went with our friends and were thrilled to be there. Thrilled at the innovative concept, the interesting food, the entertainment factor, all in a space where we could have fun. Cocktails at Aviary, before and after dinner, were fantastically creative with distillations at the table and shattering balls of ice hovering over a glass.
Sorry to say, the thrill is gone. In sad and gloomy surroundings that appear not to have been updated since inception, the revolution that was Next/Aviary has gone stale and is not worthy of the cost of a ticket. And the ban on odd-numbered parties is … greedy.
At Next (we had Terroir in December), the service staff, while genuine, was all too serious about serving an 11-course menu at breakneck speed. We were welcomed and out the door within two hours. Lined up before us were always numerous glasses of wine from courses past that we didn’t have time to drink and fully consider before the next course arrived with the wait staff asking “which glasses can we remove?”
The food – some courses interesting, some unimpressive, most we didn’t finish.
As to Aviary, $25 cocktails, that are no different than those made (for less) by creative mixologists everywhere, is crazy. What happened to the fireworks that used to accompany the drinks here?
I haven't been to Alinea in four years, but with my recent experience at Next/Aviary, I won’t be returning to the Achatz empire. All over the country, and the globe, there are so many incredible chefs and mixologists who are making better and more innovative food and drinks at more reasonable prices. And even at the higher end, our meals at Celler de Can Roca last March and Saison in the fall were much more advanced, less needlessly fussy, and, I know hard to believe, more reasonable than Next.
There was a time when the Achatz $500 pp for dinner and $25 for a cocktail was worth it. Not now.
There are fantastic restaurants in Chicago (and the world) that are serving better food in fun, eclectic and electric surroundings, at less than half the price. Really. Do your research.