If it weren’t for the touristy, Michigan Avenue locale, The Purple Pig would epitomize everything that's currently trendy in the Chicago food scene. There’s the nose-to-tail cooking philosophy, the communal dining experience, and the tapas-sized portions, not to mention the no reservation policy.
Thankfully, the restaurant wears most of these trends well, save for the two-hour Saturday night waits. Bar-height tables and rustic colors elevate the dining room, making the place feel slightly more “wine with the girlfriends” rather than “beers with the guys.” Yet there’s a formidable manliness to the menu; after all, Cajun-mecca Heaven on Seven’s Jimmy Bannos Jr. heads the kitchen.
Bannos' ever-popular braised pork shoulder with mashed potatoes is the best comfort food outside of mom’s kitchen, so tender you only need a spoon and two orders. Spanish ham, mushroom, and fried duck egg on bread would, in retrospect, be a perfect hangover cure. There’s even a turkey leg confit, though it’s too large and too dry to be worth it. All this is served up amidst decorative piggy banks and established twenty-somethings ordering plates of roasted bone marrow (brightened with fresh cilantro, onions, capers, and a bowl of sea salt).
Dessert, of all things, should not be rushed or ignored. Sugar-dusted nutella paninos are popular, but the Sicilian Iris, a fried brioche bursting with ricotta and chocolate chips, is an indulgence to fight over. Frying turns the brioche into supple, chewy dough; combined with melted ricotta and chocolate, it’s brilliantly simple and deserves time to savor.
The bustling crowd doesn’t dim until closing, and you can easily spend two hours slowly moving through the multi-faceted (though sadly, not seasonal) menu. The wait may be long, but at least nothing here is harried, as patrons go through bottles of wine and Simon & Garfunkel croons over speakers.