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First Look: Acadia

By Anthony Todd in Food on Jan 24, 2012 4:00PM

Acadia, the new South Loop spot from Chef Ryan McCaskey, was an oasis in a sea of blizzard last Friday night when we stopped in. We made a particular point of checking out Acadia because of its unique location - in the 1600 block of South Wabash. Most attempts to open fine dining restaurants in that area haven't turned out so well, but we have a sneaking suspicion that Acadia will be different.

The bar, helmed by mixer Michael Simon (formerly of Graham Elliot), stocks everything that we'd want in our home bar if we had tons of money, a personal chef and a wholesale liquor distributor. Craft spirits, The Bitter Truth amaro and liquors, and a medley of homemade ice cubes and drink toppers immediately signal to the drinker that this bar is playing for keeps. For instance, the Amnesiac cocktail is made with absinthe ice cubes; rather than watering down your drink as they melt, they change the flavor over time, allowing you to sip the cocktail at your leisure.

The kitchen isn't messing around either. Seafood is sourced from Maine (also the inspiration for the restaurant's name), and McCaskey knows how to treat it. The obligatory fine dining/modernist flourishes and whirls are on every plate, but they don't overpower the stars of the menu, which include a beet salad with orange and fennel and savory Deer Isle Shrimp.

The restaurant will offer more elaborate tasting menus in the future - we'd head in now, while the prices are still reasonable and the reviews haven't come out yet. If you want to save a little money, try the bar menu. It includes some lower-priced dishes not available in the dining room, like burgers and lobster rolls.

Check out descriptions of the dishes in the captions.

Acadia is located at 1639 S. Wabash.