The Purple Pig (Restaurant, River North)
Location: 500 N. Michigan Ave.
Cuisine: Mediterranean; Small plates
Reservations: Not accepted
The Purple Pig’s slogan sums up the experience perfectly: “Cheese, Swine & Wine.” This Magnificent Mile restaurant is for the adventurous meat lover who enjoys sharing a great meal with friends over many bottles of wine. Sound up your alley? Yeah, we thought so. That’s pretty much the only way to do it. Reservations are not accepted, so get there early and expect to wait. Conversation level is high as friends gather around communal tables to choose from the Mediterranean-inspired small plates menu. Wood tables and panelling mix with mosaic tiled walls, accented by large wine barrels as the main decor. The atmosphere is right, so it’s time to dig in.
Pork is obviously a main feature of the menu, as are charcuterie and cheeses. We suggest starting your order in the antipasti category and working your way to the “a la plancha” or larger grilled dishes. Our group of four started out with two of the smears: the bone marrow and the garlic tomato spread. If bone marrow freaks you out, or you’re simply not the adventuresome type, this is the place to give it a go. It almost tastes like a thicker slightly gelatinous garlic butter. The tomato spread was tasty and well-salted, but seemed ordinary after the more eccentric bone marrow.
We then moved onto the “fried items” and chose to try a deviled egg and the pig’s ear. Again, if pig ear makes you squirm, it’s reminiscent of fried, crispy pieces of bacon, soaked in fried egg yolk over crispy kale. The deviled egg is literally just one deviled egg, but when the egg is fried do you really need more than one? It is best split between two (and is only available at dinner).
For the larger of the small plates, we chose an octopus dish, pork shoulder and fried smashed potatoes, and a giant turkey leg. We couldn’t get enough of the fork-tender pork shoulder and the creamy mashed potatoes dotted with herbs and salt. The turkey leg was fall-off-the-bone tender and like I said… GIANT.
We finished off with two desserts, the Sicilian Iris and the Panino con Nutella. The Sicilian Iris was the Purple Pig’s take on a beignet. The light pastry was, needless to say, gone in seconds.
The bills comes: it’s not cheap. But we knew what we were getting into, and oh was it worth it. I would definitely return for an evening of wine, cheese, and charcuterie plates. And the bone marrow. Oh, the bone marrow.
The Purple Pig is a great restaurant on Michigan Avenue that offers something different than its neighbors.
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