A couple of weekends ago Cheryl and I had another opportunity to dine at one of Chicago Eater’s “Eater 38” restaurants. We had some friends visiting from DC who were staying downtown so we recommended going to The Purple Pig. It’s on Michigan just north of the river which is enough to make you think “tourist food” but it’s not. Well, okay, there can be tourists there but it’s not a tourist trap type of place. In fact The Purple Pig is on the Michelin Guide’s “Bib Gourmand” list for Chicago which means it has high quality food and the price of an appetizer, entrée, and glass of wine is below $40. At the Purple Pig you can definitely get under that number and be very satisfied when you push away from the table.
Side roam: I’m a huge fan of Michael Ruhlman and when he was in Chicago a few weeks ago promoting his new book he asked, via twitter, for lunch place suggestions. I replied with The Purple Pig. Long/short he went and I got a twitter mention thanking me for the perfect choice. I’m still quite chuffed over it. 14:55 mins. of fame left. And yes, I’ve ordered the book and am eagerly awaiting delivery this week.
Now let me just say I’m not a huge fan of the small plate craze that swept the nation over the past half decade or so. In my opinion small plates are meant for tapas which means if I have a small plate in front of me I should either be in a Spanish restaurant or in Spain. Well that’s how The Purple Pig rolls, small plates…And I will soooo go back there any time someone offers that suggestion! Here’s what the four of us ate:
- charred cauliflower with toasted breadcrumbs, cornichons & parsley
- fried chorizo stuffed olives
- fried pig’s ear with kale, cherry peppers, and fried egg (awesome!)
- pig tail braised in balsamic (Cheryl’s fav)
- pork neckbone rillette
- coppa with provolone panini (two come in the order)
- pork blade steak with ‘nduja (a spreadable salami made with all the pig bits) and honey
- a bottle of red wine (Spanish tempranillo)
Umm yeah. Hungry? Oh and there is a section on the menu titled “Fried Items.” You had me at fried. And we definitely ate and drank all that for less than the Bib Gourmand per person ceiling. In addition to an eclectic, adventurous menu that glorifies the pig they’ve got a pretty intense, extensive wine list that won’t break your bank (unless you want to break your bank, they’ve got options for that too).
“Come on, it can’t be all good news” you say. Well…given its location it is popular and according to their website they don’t take reservations (that’s another peeve of mine, restaurants that don’t take reservations but that’s another post for another day). We walked up around 6ish and inquired about a table for 4, they said it’d be an hour. Bummer. Although for Michigan Avenue on Saturday night it’s probably not bad, but what do I know, I live in Wrigleyville. They also said they’d call us on our cell phone when a table was ready so we went across Michigan Avenue to a wine bar and had a drink there while waiting. And they did call us, in less than an hour, about 40 mins. So it wasn’t too bad a wait (again I’m a Wrigleyvillain so what do I know). It’s also a bit loud in there. Not so loud you have to yell but it ain’t no library either. So there, you see? It’s not all perfect. But the food is really really really good and that’s what I care about. Some of the best quality-to-price-value food I’ve had lately.
I’ve always maintained you can tell a lot about a country’s/culture’s cuisine by what they can do with a pig (go ahead, think about that for a minute, and yes there are exceptions, but still, think about it for a minute). I’m happy to say this goes for restaurants too. Did I say the food was really good?
Update: Went back for another dinner on a Saturday night and can say the food is consistently excellent. We sampled a couple new dishes this time around and found the jowl with duck egg and turkey leg confit to be outstanding! The lardo was delicious as well. Waited a little longer this time around but we showed up during prime time (7:30pm) so I’d recommend showing up earlier in the evening to get on the list then going for some drinks while you wait for the phone call.