Acadia

Elegant and earthy fare in Chicago
VERIFIED LUXURY
The success of Chicago’s Acadia restaurant certainly isn’t due to its location. Situated on an unremarkable stretch of the South Loop, the orange brick one-story building looks like just any other anonymous concrete cubicle.

To chef Ryan McCaskey, however, the dissonant location is part of the point: You can find beauty wherever you look. Indeed, once you step inside, Acadia’s subdued colors, chill lounge music and stylish servers instantly transport you to an elegant, restrained contemporary American restaurant that melds the pastoral with the sublime.
SHARE
Our Inspector's Highlights
• Acadia’s diverse influences are expressed not only in the unique menu, but also in the sleek, understated décor. The dining room’s rich earth tones and minimalist furnishings hint at Japanese elegance, while the exposed cedar adds a warm accent.

• The understated artwork — the largest piece in the dining room is a live collection of birch tree trunks, moss and lichen — underscores the menu’s devotion to earthy pleasures.

• The man behind Acadia may not be as well known as some of Chicago’s more famous chefs, but McCaskey is nearly as well respected as a Grant Achatz or a Stephanie Izard.

• In yet another example of Acadia’s paradoxical nature, McCaskey is a two-time James Beard semifinalist, and his restaurant routinely tops local “best of” lists. Yet the modest chef is also known for his juicy lobster rolls and delicious hamburgers, which are made of chuck, brisket and Wagyu beef.
Things to Know
• If you want to see McCaskey’s best fine-dining work, order a tasting menu that features dishes with ingredients as varied as caviar, kumquat and lobster coconut broth.

• Be sure to allow yourself plenty of time when dining at this Chicago eatery. It takes up to three hours to experience McCaskey’s seasonal nine-course menu and about one-and-a-half to two hours for the five-course dinner.

• The best way to reserve a table—and reservations are required—at Acadia is by calling the restaurant directly at 1-312-360-9500 between 1 and 5 p.m. A limited number of seats are available through OpenTable as well.

• You’ll want to dress to impress at this Chicago restaurant. The dress code is officially business casual, but it’s not unusual to see diners in jackets and cocktail dresses at this Forbes Travel Guide Recommended eatery.

• Acadia serves dinner five nights a week: Wednesday and Thursday from 5:30 to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 5 until 11 p.m. and on Sunday from 5 to 9 p.m. The South Loop restaurant is closed on Monday and Tuesday.
The Food
• The evening begins with a playful amuse-bouche, such as miniature vegetables from the restaurant’s own garden on a pillow of housemade Boursin cheese.

• Appetizers include a charcuterie plate with a disc of head cheese (don’t be put off — it’s surprisingly delicious) and a delicate pile of prosciutto-like coffee-rubbed bresaola.

• Acadia’s entrées are gorgeously plated and combine beautifully complementary flavors: The delicious Wagyu tri-tip gently covered in vegetable ash comes with a small cup of oxtail prune consommé, which offers a subtly fragrant counterpoint.

• The museum-worthy lobster Newburg is a brilliant deconstruction, with juicy lobster claw and tail presented in elegant towers alongside single dollops of sauce made of sherry, cream, cognac and egg.
The Bar
• You can try McCaskey’s widely praised sandwiches in the sophisticated bar area, which carries a menu that offers everything from bread and butter pickles to Slagel Farms pork shoulder.

• In the dining room, Acadia’s prices are fair; in the bar, they’re a downright steal: The widely adored burger costs a reasonable $16.

•  Maybe that’s why word has it that the bar fills up fast every night — so get here early if you’re eating at the bar.

• Be forewarned: There’s no TV showing the Blackhawks game here. It’s not that kind of bar.
Getting There
1639 South Wabash Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60616
TEL312-360-9500