The Purple Pig In ChicagoPorky Goodness and More
500 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago
Open daily from 11:30 a.m.
No reservations, major credit cards accepted
The conference I attended didn't include meals, which meant we were on our own in figuring out where to eat and get back in time for the next session. Luckily, I spotted The Purple Pig near our hotel on our first day and remembered reading that this restaurant was named one of the top 10 new restaurants by Bon Appetit last year.
My co-workers and I went for lunch, and after a 30 minute wait, we were seated at one of the high communal tables. The Purple Pig had a whimsical feel with a cheat sheet explaining ingredients tacked on lamp shades above the table and quotes on wine from famous people written on the wall.
The menu is extensive, with a variety of dishes that has a Mediterranean slant. Our server said the plates were small and meant to share, so we ordered a few plates and started to pig out.
When you visit a place called The Purple Pig, you have to order the Pig Platter ($29). And when it arrived, it literally was a pig platter, a wooden plank with a carved pig's head.
The Purple Pig makes all its charcuterie, and there was a nice variety on the platter although I don't know what they were since there wasn't a guide and the server who dropped it off didn't give us the run down. I know there was a prosciutto and a few salumi, and maybe a version of mortadella? Doesn't matter because they were all good, with subtle differences in taste and intensity.
Among the small plates that arrived was this Salt-Roasted Beets with whipped goat cheese and pistachio vinaigrette ($6). I'm a fan of beets, and really enjoyed how the deep flavors of the beets were balanced with the creamy whipped goat cheese and the contrasting vinaigrette. This was one of our favorite plates.
One dish that gave off a strong Mediterranean feel was this Olive Oil-poached Tuna with Greek lima beans ($7). The tuna chunks were so tender, and so were the huge lima beans. They were a perfect combination.
The menu also has a section called "Smears," which are spreads on croistinis. We tried the Fava Bean, Pea and Ricotta Salata smear ($6), which had a beautiful bright green color topped with the ricotta salata. The actually smear was light in flavor, and not as bold as the color.
Here's the Charred Cauliflower with toasted breadcrumbs ($6). You might not be able to tell since the cauliflower is covered by the breadcrumbs (and some cornichons), but the cauliflower was actually lime green. I don't know if it's actually cauliflower or the romesco version that I sometimes see in the spring markets? Either way it was crunchy and tasty, with a slight grilled flavor from the charring.
While most of the dishes we ate were served room temperature, I felt we needed more of a hot dish so I ordered something from the Ala Palancha section, which is the Spanish hot platters. We got the sepia, another nod to my Barcelona memories when I would eat grilled sepia (cuttlefish) almost every day.
The Purple Pig's version was cut in slices, different from the whole sepia I got in Spain. But they were cooked perfectly with a nice grilling to bring out the umami flavoring of the sepia.
We were able to have this amazing lunch and get back in time for our session, and while we did a good job of not stuffing ourselves, we definitely left feeling satisfied. If I lived in Chicago, I would put The Purple Pig on my regular rotation just because the menu changes often and there are so many different and innovative dishes to try. Call me a pig; I don't care when I'm eating here.
Single guy rating: 4.25 stars (Lots to munch on)
Explanation of the single guy's rating system:
1 star = perfect for college students
2 stars = perfect for new diners
3 stars = perfect for foodies
4 stars = perfect for expense accounts
5 stars = perfect for any guy's dream dinner