Just what does it mean to have chef John Broening back on the restaurant scene? Quite a lot: Broening was the opening chef at Duo—and he quickly established himself as a champion of local and seasonal cooking long before others adopted the philosophy. In addition to wowing diners at Duo, he and wife and pastry chef extraordinaire, Yasmin Lozada-Hissom also brought us Olivèa and Spuntino, and Broening fine-tuned the kitchens at Le Grand Bistro and Argyll Whisky Beer before taking some time away from the stove.

Now, at Avelina, the duo are cooking together again. But when the restaurant opened on September 5, it signaled more than just a comeback for the chefs, it activated a long overlooked stretch of Wazee Street. The restaurant’s sleek, generous space and stunning indoor-outdoor bar beckon with a breezy vibe that’s just what the block needs to bring foot traffic.

The menu follows suit with Broening’s characteristic what’s-fresh style. His cooking skews Italian, which means dishes are light and seasonally driven (having the Union Station Farmers’ Market just blocks away is a boon), but he’s never afraid to mix mediums. Alongside delicate agnolotti and Broening’s signature smoked trout bruschetta, the menu lists Moroccan lamb sausage flatbread, a Thai lamb salad, and a spice-crusted fish sandwich.

One dish not to miss is the wood-oven roasted eggplant (pictured), which is a play on baba ganoush. But instead of mush, expect texture from the smoky vegetable and the accompanying pickled onions, braised carrots, and za’atar crisp. Swirl each bite into the puddle of tahini dressing and wait, contentedly, until the next dish arrives.

1550 17th St., 720-904-6711

Amanda M. Faison
Amanda M. Faison
Freelance writer Amanda M. Faison spent 20 years at 5280 Magazine, 12 of those as Food Editor.