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“It's All About the Presentation, and Thus the Benjamins”
Review of The Aviary

The Aviary
Ranked #281 of 9,548 Restaurants in Chicago
Certificate of Excellence
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Dining options: Late Night, Reservations
Neighborhood: West Loop
Chicago, IL
Level Contributor
27 reviews
22 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 10 helpful votes
“It's All About the Presentation, and Thus the Benjamins”
Reviewed December 28, 2012

This is an experience, not so much a bar. And most experiences are expensive. The Aviary is an expensive (but worth it) experience.

I'll begin with the visual aspect of The Aviary: it's pretty. The interior is a nice mix of mod & romance...very dim lighting, great art work, orchids. And the seating is either booths with high backs for privacy or benches + chairs at tables. Either option can be construed as intimate.

The cocktails are what you would expect from Grant Achatz and his team of brilliant makers. The drink menu is exceptionally well thought out and well done, and I can only surmise is seasonal. The presentation is a large amount of the fun and intrigue. Lighting drinks on fire, using what I can only describe as a bunson burner under a large carafe of mulling spices, glass canteens that on first inspection look like they house infused olive oil, but in actuality have a spirited spirit in them; it's all very impressive. And everything that I tasted was good. I had a poached pear which tastes like what you would expect, but the pinot noir component was in the form of a hand shaved piece of pinot noir ice. There were walnut crumbles on the rim...bravo.

The service is killer and the point of going is to experience an unconventional, "think about mixology differently" style experience. If that isn't your thing, then this isn't your spot. But it really is a great experience and if you are forward thinking enough to email and get reservations, then enjoy the experience. Worry about the hit to your bank account later.

  • Visited December 2012
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Thank Watergirl8888
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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276 reviews from our community

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Date | Rating
  • Dutch first
  • English first
  • French first
  • Italian first
  • Portuguese first
  • Spanish first
  • Any
English first
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Level Contributor
11 reviews
4 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
“Could have been spectacular”
Reviewed December 26, 2012

Upon arrival I was impressed with the decor and style of the Aviary. It's a beautiful restaurant, and the ambiance is soft and romantic.

The drink and food selection are vast. I really like the bites concept of their food- everything came as a trio of single bites, and it was all delicious. One of our companions couldn't stop talking about the ramen with the pork belly as well.

The drinks are all unique, but it seems to be all flash and no substance. Some of the drinks come with ridiculous preparations that are just meant to be flashy. I didn't particularly care for any of my drinks, nor my companions when tasting theirs. I opted for the 3 drink menu, priced at $45, picking three tequila based drinks. One was green apple- tasted nothing like green apple, and mostly just tequila. The second was a margarita which was okay, had cranberry and a cinnamon stick. Neat concept on that one, but again could only really taste tequila. The third was horchata, which I was really excited about. It arrived in a styrofoam cup with a plastic straw- super gimmicky and out of place. I hated this drink, it has cayenne pepper in it which wasn't noted on the menu. Had I have known I wouldn't have ordered it. At an average of $15 a drink it's disappointing when you don't like one of them at all.

I'm not sure if I would go back on my own, it's a place that's trying to hard to be unique and create an air of exclusivity. It's a place to take a date or group of people you want to impress. Overall I enjoyed the experience because of my company, not so much the Aviary itself.

Visited December 2012
2 Thank Cindy D
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Chicago, Illinois
Level Contributor
48 reviews
38 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 16 helpful votes
“Impress your date night”
Reviewed December 20, 2012

We went on a Thursday evening. Given a hard time at the door about not having reservations. It was busy, but not overcrowded so we were not sure what the big deal was about. You can see the bar where they concoct the unusual drinks. Very interesting, simple elegant interior w/ long wavy couch seating that sat 3 tables per side that faced each other. The interesting concoctions of drinks are very expensive, but amazing & unusual. Just like Alinea, it's all about food/drink art & presentation here. Our waiter, Ethan was very knowledgeable & presented the drinks beautifully. Since I was the DD, I had a non-alcoholic ginger drink that was very gingery (I like ginger, but most might think it's too gingery). At the table next to us, they ordered a drink that was in a plastic bag & when it was cut open, the smell of lavender filled the space. Another table had a round fruit infused drink with different fruits inside. It was interesting to see the various vessels for presenting the drinks. The petite appetizers looked amazing too, especially the lollipops. We had the chocolate dessert & it was delicious. It popped in your mouth! You can't take a small bite because there is liquid inside & it will get everywhere!!! Looked like it was more for the 30-40's crowd. If you don't mind spending a lot for drinks, this is a fantastic, romantic place to impress your date (just make reservations ;)))

  • Visited December 2012
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Thank Stephanie M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Panama City
Level Contributor
112 reviews
72 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 75 helpful votes
“WOW! Like nothing you've ever seen before!”
Reviewed December 11, 2012

We didn't know exactly what to expect at The Aviary, but I think that the suspense was part of the fun. First of all, this place isn't so easy to find. Once you do find it, they guide you down a darkish passage and there are three doors. We didn't know which door to go in, since none of them were marked. However, once inside, we just took in the view for a moment. It's beautifully decorated, very classy, comfortable and modern.

The menu undersells the drinks, as does the waitress. All you really know is that the drinks are pricy! Around $20 each! You sit there for a moment wondering why a drink would be $20 !?!

Well, you aren't just ordering a drink...you are ordering an experience! There is some major science behind these cocktails and it could only be described as Molecular Mixology!

I don't want to ruin any surprises, all I can is GO! It's worth the money and the story you'll be able to tell your friends about.

I will mention that before we arrived at The Aviary, we had dinner at Frontera Grill (which was amazing - check out my review). Chef/owner Rick Bayless confirmed to us that The Aviary was a must visit, and he was absolutely right!

Frontera Grill and The Aviary...a perfect night out in Chicago!

Visited November 2012
1 Thank Loves_good_things
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Chicago suburb
Level Contributor
23 reviews
16 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 42 helpful votes
Reviewed December 7, 2012

Having just finished dinner across the street....my wife and I went to this establishment for an after dinner drink. We were both dressed properly...suit and dress.....we are in our 40's.....a good looking couple. There were very limited cars on the street.....no hustle bustle outside.....things were very quiet on this Thursday evening around 8pm. We entered the long entryway....not a soul there except the doorman. We were asked if we had a reservation....(to a bar....and yes I realize they want to be....and most likely are.... a high end bar). We told the young...rude doorman with a bad attitude that we did not. As I said....the place was dead quiet. He proceeded to get on his James Bond lapel clipped 2-way radio to check inside if we could be admitted. 5 minutes passed and not a word from this doorman. I asked him what was going on and he said he was working on it. We left. I realize that Mr. Achatz...one of the owners.....of this place..... along with NEXT and ALINEA....is world famous and he wants to create an air of exclusivity. If you are interested in being treated badly.....and as you should be lucky to enter his holy ground..... this place is for you. If you want to be treated with respect and have people respect the fact that you want to spend $20 on their cocktails....on a dead Thursday night.....then you....like me....shouldn't waste your time. I wonder if this type of service is directed from the upper management....or if this doorman took it upon himself to act in this manner. I have had full intentions of trying the other establishments owned by this group. Very hard reservations to get I know. But after this experience I was very soured and convinced they do not need me.....my type....or my cash.

  • Visited December 2012
    • Service
11 Thank gariupamg
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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