As one of Chicago’s top rated restaurants, The Purple Pig has been on my list of places to try for months. Don’t let the fact that it’s located on the touristy Magnificent Mile deter you! While you will find tourists there, the food is absolutely worth the wait and the potential run in with the tourist crowd.
They do not take reservations, but they will take your phone number and text you when the table is ready, giving you a ten minute window to claim your table. We went to ENO Wine Bar across the street for some wine flights while we waited. The wait was shorter than the time quoted to us, and I received a phone call first, and then the text message with the ten minute window once a table was available.
Upon arrival, we were seated at a communal table, with another party on one end. The restaurant interior is small, crowed, and lively, so this seating arrangement wasn’t a big deal. Two of our four stayed back to pay the bill at the wine bar, and they had no problem seating just half the party when we arrived, which was a huge plus considering the time constraints on claiming the table.
The first decision to make is drinks. I would say absolutely go with wine. The selection is wonderful, and I wasn’t super intrigued by any of the cocktails. Our waiter was really knowledgeable and helped me decide from a few of my own pre-selected options. I went with a nice Rioja (I am partial to Spanish wine since I studied abroad in Spain). Instead of the Reserva which we ordered, they accidentally served us the Gran Reserva, which wasn’t even on the menu. When they realized the mistake, the waiter let us know we would be getting the bottle for the price of the wine I’d ordered, and we could get our second bottle of the Gran Reserva at that price too—really great service!
Now to the most important decisions—food! The menu is really big, and full of delicious sounding dishes. While it is hard to get a table, especially on a weekend, I recommend coming with more people so you have the ability to order more dishes! We had a group of 4, and ordered 7 dishes in total. Right when we sat down, the waiter told us about the beef shank special, and said he would set one aside for us. Unfortunately, they ended up selling out before we had the opportunity to order, which was disappointing.
The dishes we went with were:
- Pig’s Ear with Crispy Kale, Pickled Cherry Peppers & Fried Egg
- Baked Feta Cheese with Tomatillo Sauce, Cilantro & Olives
- Roasted Squash with Bok Choy (not on current online menu)
- Octopus with Green Beans, Fingerling Potatoes & Salsa Verde
- Lamb Ribs with Harissa, Treviso Marmalade, Israeli Couscous & Blood Orange
- Half Duck Confit, Greek Yogurt, Smoked Trout Roe & Brioche Buns
- Beef Tenderloin with broccoli ice cream (not on current online menu)
I had heard that the pig’s ear was on of the Purple Pig’s go to dishes, so I had to try it. Topped with a fried egg on top of a bed of crispy kale, the pig’s ear was quite tasty. It was cut into strips and fried – (who doesn’t like deep fried). The kale was particularly delicious, which I wouldn’t have thought when just reading the dish description. All in all, it was good, but not fantastic. I am not a pig ear connoisseur by any means, but I felt the pig ear itself lacked flavor. I’d give this dish a 7 out of 10.
This was a last minute addition to our list of menu items, and I am so glad we decided to go for this smear. The baked feta cheese was so delicious, salty and warm. Those flavors were complemented well by the tangy tomatillo sauce and bright cilantro flavor. Top it off with some Greek olives and this dish perfectly rich and delicious. Not to mention the grilled bread served with the smear – a perfect pairing. We ran out of bread and had to get a second round in order to savor the rest of this dish. For me, this was a 9/10.
Unfortunately I went into this dish a bit skeptical, because we had initially ordered the roasted carrots and plantains as our Antipasti choice. However, the waiter let us know that they were sold out, and offered to get us the roasted squash instead, on the house. Great customer service, but all of us had really been excited about the carrots. The squash had great flavor. It was coated with some sort of seed, which added a nice crunch to the dish. It was served with bok choy, which was a little underwhelming and a bit soggy. The plating was not as nice as the other dishes either. While the squash did taste great, it was a really small dish, and for the value I am glad we didn’t have to pay for this one. Hoping to go back and try the carrots and plantains! This dish gets a generous 6/10.
The octopus was the dish I was most excited about going into this meal from my study of the menu before we arrived. Grilled octopus is one of my all time favorite foods, and I was excited to try it here. I was not disappointed. It was cooked perfectly – so succulent and tender, great flavor. Highly recommend, even if you are not a big octopus person! The texture of grilled octopus is much less chewy than other octopus dishes so don’t let that deter you. Served with green beans, potatoes and salsa verde, all good but nothing can compare the octopus. In my non biased, octopus loving opinion, 9.5/10.
If you go to the Purple Pig, please get the lamb ribs. This dish was by far the crowd favorite. Bursting with flavor, meat falling off the bone, I had to eat every last bite down to the drops off sauce. These were cooked to perfection. The sauce was sweet, with a hint of cinnamon and orange. The couscous was a nice addition to balance out some of the sweet flavors, and the lamb itself just really impressed. There’s not much more to say except 10/10. I would absolutely order this dish again and again.
Half Duck Confit:
The duck confit did not disappoint. This dish is a large portion, and incredibly tasty. It was cooked wonderfully, and the meat was tender and flavorful. It was served with brioche buns on the side (pictured up top!) and was a filling, delicious course for the end of the meal. The greek yogurt sauce and trout roe were nice subtle complements to the rich flavor of the duck itself. After finishing up this one, I was getting pretty full, and was glad we only had 1 dish left *only because I had no room left!* I would give the duck confit a 9/10.
As I mentioned earlier, we were originally going to order the special beef shank. When the restaurant sold out, this was our replacement dish. Much like the squash, I was coming in pretty skeptical (and this one was not on the house lol). My first reaction when they brought out the tenderloin was that it was pretty small, especially for the price. This ended up being okay since it was our last dish of the night. The meat itself was cooked very well. Juicy and tender, it was very good. It was served with broccoli ice cream and some sort of mushroom tart. The ice cream wasn’t very flavorful, it was more like a palate cleanser. The tart was good, a bit crispy for me though. Overall, I’d give this one a 7.5/10. If I was just rating the meat, it would be an eight.
Individual rating of dishes aside, I really enjoyed my experience and meal at The Purple Pig. The service was exceptional, the food was delicious, and the wine was superb (thanks to a small mistake!) I understand why this makes the top restaurant lists for Chicago, despite its touristy location. I would go back again, reorder some of my favorites, and explore even more of the menu. If you’re going on a weekend, try to go earlier since by 7:30-8pm, many dishes were sold out. All in all, very satisfying dining experience!