We moved here in early August and since the weather was still very pleasant we made several visits to the city and did ‘touristy’ things in those early weeks. On one of our visits we came across The Purple Pig when we were wandering on the Magnificent Mile. Given the name and our love of pork we were curious. At ~2pm on a Monday afternoon the wait was 2 hours! So, we didn’t wait but put it on our list of places to check out.
On a random Friday in September we decided to check it out for lunch. Rather than deal with a wait (they don’t take reservations) we got there when they opened at 11:30am and were the third party in line. Well, as you can imagine, given all of this hype The Purple Pig really had to impress!
It is a newish place developed by Scott Harris and Jimmy Bannos, local restaurateurs, and the chef is Jimmy Bannos Jr. The space is fairly intimate with a couple of communal, high-top tables and just a few small two tops along the side wall. They communal tables offer a view of the small open kitchen. In the summer they also have a patio area which almost doubles the seating area. The décor is simple with a few mosaic tiles and marble table tops. The menu is inspired by Spanish style tapas and offers several small plates. It also includes ‘smears’ which are spreads served with toasted bread and nice selection of salumi. The wine list is also very approachable with nice variety at reasonable prices offered by the glass and carafe.
As you might imagine, several of the small plates are centered on pork products. Naturally, we had to try a few! We started with the deviled egg with arugula and capers which was not your typical deviled egg. It is fried with a light breaded coating. The filling is warmed through and creamy when the egg is broken into. It created a lovely dressing for the arugula. The “JLT” is an open-faced sandwich of pork jowl, tomato, frisee and fried duck egg which was just delicious! The pork jowl is nicely crisp but also tender and the egg yolk creates a nice rich creaminess. The milk braised pork shoulder was extremely rich and comforting. The delicate fork-tender shoulder is served over creamy mashed potatoes. This was a wonderful dish but, to be honest, the portion was a bit large for such a rich dish (even for a small plate!). We also tried the house made veal mortadella sausage that was served with black kale, chickpeas and preserved cherry tomatoes. The sausage was nice but I particularly enjoyed the concentrated tomato flavor of the preserved tomatoes which provided a very nice, slightly sweet and tart accompaniment to the sausage. My favorite dish of the afternoon was the pork secreto with roasted red pepper, leeks and pickled watermelon rind. Apparently, secreto is a cut near the belly so it has the rich fattiness of pork belly but also a nice skin which was just crisped up. The sweetness of the pork came through nicely and was highlighted by the simple red pepper dressing. We managed to select some of the richest dishes on the menu so we were just too full to even consider dessert. Next time we will have to do a better job of balancing our choices!
The Purple Pig is a real treat if you are looking to try some unique pork dishes. We were impressed by the quality, creativity and execution of the dishes we tried. The only unfortunate aspect is that they don’t take reservations so plan to go right at opening or be prepared to wait!
The Purple Pig
500 N Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611