One of best food experiences I had while I was in Chicago was at The Purple Pig. Don’t let the name fool you because the food speaks for itself. The concept of the restaurant is Mediterranean inspired dishes in a small plate format at community shared tables. Besides the community tables, there are about 8 seats that are open to kitchen. That means you get a unrestricted, close-up view of the kitchen in full swing.
The menu is expansive, the staff are passionate, knowledgeable, and this is quite an experience for any foodie. As luck would have it, I ended up at the Chef’s table after a long wait and navigating standing room only. I decided to order a couple of dishes to get started as I watched the cooks push out stunning dish after stunning dish.
First up was this twist on Spanakopita. This dish danced in perfect harmony with every bite. The crunch of the perfectly cooked filo dough, the filling was rich, the yogurt underneath was tangy, and the beet and carrot salad had a sublime punch of acidity to cut through the Spanakopita. It was the perfect bite in all respects.
This little beauty is Duck Proscuitto with some house made crackers and a little pepper jelly. The duck melted in your mouth and had incredible richness. By the way, this is all done in house. The crackers provided some much needed texture. The peppered jelly had the perfect amount of heat with a little sweetness to round out this sexy little plate. After only my second dish, I realized what incredibly good food I was enjoying and couldn’t wait for more!
I love roasted cauliflower, so when I saw this charred version on the menu I had to have it! This was probably one of the best dishes I had all night. The cauliflower was cut thin enough that cooking over high heat allowed the roasted nuttiness to come out, but it wasn’t so thin that the vegetable fell apart. In contrast, you did get some of that crunch and a little bit of bitterness that you expect from cauliflower. The cornichons were a surprising twist that added a little acid and sweetness to play off the cauliflower. The parsley gave the dish some freshness and herbaceousness. Round that out with a splash of lemon juice for some punch, some bread crumbs adding a little texture, and this dish had it all! If I didn’t want try more items on the menu I would have kept eating this all night.
I can’t remember why I decided to get the Mortadella but it was the best decision ever!! This dish blew my mind! Not only was it all made and cured in house, but the balance of flavors on this plate truly sang. First off, this dish is very cleverly plated. Chunks of mortadella sandwiched between chunks of ooey gooey cheese grilled to perfection to form that carmalized crust that you associate with meats on the grill. The mortadella was salty, rich, and had a perfect mouth feel. The cheese had a firm exterior but was soft, creamy, and slightly sweet. That paired with compressed apples, a balsamic reduction, and a salad of parsley, lemon juice, olive oil was the perfect counterpoint. The salad was welcome relief to the richness and salt of the mortadella and cheese on the skewers. It made the dish enjoyable from start to finish. You weren’t left with that heavy feeling after finishing this plate. However, you wouldn’t soon forget it either. This was my favorite dish of the night!!
If a full compliment of amazing small plates wasn’t enough, there was this cleverly crafted dessert to cap off the night. Peanut butter cheesecake and a milk sorbet that were all made in house. The best part of this dessert was the milk sorbet. It had the flavors of a vanilla milk shake, the texture of ice cream, and finished on the palate like whipped cream. It literally just melted in your mouth.!! Granted, having the stunning peanut butter cheesecake didn’t hurt at all and it was masterfully executed. I wouldn’t have traded it for anything either!
The Purple Pig was probably one of the most memorable restaurant experiences during my time in Chicago. Don’t believe me? Just ask these two guys!
That’s right! Here I am with Chef/Owner Jimmy Bannos Jr.!! He was very kind and thoughtful to take time away from the line to sign a menu and take this photo with me. His team is amazing and made the experience very enjoyable!
If you go to Chicago, you must go there! When I go back to Chicago, I will be going back for sure! I already can’t wait to go back!