When I first saw the signs for The Purple Pig opening on Michigan Avenue, all I could tell from across the street was that it looked new and trendy. I was curious about The Purple Pig’s new restaurant downtown because we have few places to go on Michigan Avenue for lunch/dinner and we get soooo tired of the same thing all the time. The Purple Pig restaurant would be a welcome change with a gourmet twist for lunch.
I finally went to have lunch there a few weeks ago with one of my friends and was pleasantly surprised. We were not initially sure how to get to the restaurant location because it is not directly on Michigan Avenue, but down a walkway on the west side of Michigan Ave on the South side of a building next to a Bank of America branch somewhat over the intersection of Lower Michigan and Illinois Street. Lately they have left the walkway gate open so you can get there via this sidewalk that is above Illinois Street and off Michigan Avenue. They say the address is 500 N Michigan Avenue Chicago, IL 60611, ((312) 464-1744) but you would never know it from actually walking down Michigan Avenue.
So, after locating The Purple Pig (which can be tricky) we settled in to enjoy some lunch. The restaurant is small but the space is still large enough to accommodate 3 large groups and several small groups at the same time. The decor looks Swedish or Norwegian with a detailed tile motif around the kitchen/bar area balanced with a lot of natural wood. It bridges the gap between modern and rustic in a way.
We sat down and found they had the largest wine glasses we had ever seen on the table. We weren’t going to make it a drinking lunch, so those went away. We looked over the menu which is comprised of single items rather than a lunch or dinner planned out with several things together. They advised ordering two because they were both small. (?) We chose a beet dish and the gourmet grilled cheese. We waited a while and the beets came first with the cheese and pistachios giving them a rich contrasting flavor that I did not expect. The grilled cheese was larger than we were told, (2 medium size sandwiches on crusty bread grilled like a panini) and they were awesome. I don’t remember the three cheeses used in the sandwiches but they were the fancy gourmet cheese you would never think of putting on a grilled cheese and it was absolutely stunning. We ended up being fuller than we expected but who is going to leave something that good on the plate?
One thing is clear, The Purple Pig is a restaurant built around a type of dining style where everything is very rich and flavorful (wine, cheese and select gourmet meats mostly) and somewhat pricey. You get your value in the intense flavors and quality of the foods, not in large quantities. If you are looking for a big dinner this is not the place for you. They were accommodating to our requests though, explaining a menu of items we weren’t sure about and when we asked for something to dip the grilled cheese sandwiches in they produced a very good red sauce. Again, it worked wonderfully.
I don’t doubt that the food will always be excellent quality and have rich complicated flavors that you don’t expect at The Purple Pig, but most average (touristy) people are probably going to be a bit surprised if they wander in off Michigan Avenue looking for lunch or dinner. It is very yuppie and a place you go specifically to be different. That said if I’m looking for a more upscale lunch I will go back, provided I can get some more amazing Grilled Cheese Sandwiches. They are open until 11 pm on weekdays and until 2 am on Friday and Saturday nights.