Restaurant Review: A Michelin-Sized Squeal for The Purple Pig and Jimmy Bannos, Jr.

Dynasties are a real ‘thing’ with Chicago’s best restaurants. For example, the Lettuce Entertain You Group is well into its second generation in the Melman Family (RPM, etc.) There’s also Rick Bayless (Topolobampo, etc ) whose daughter Lane is also making a name for herself.

Just as important to Chicago restaurant dynasties are the Bannos Family, which is quietly (or not so quietly) leading into its fourth generation. Jimmy Bannos, Sr. made Cajun food a destination at Heaven’s on Seven. His son, Jimmy Bannos, Jr. is multiplying the Bannos influence with his 11-year-old, Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant, Streeterville’s Mediterranean-influenced The Purple Pig. 

As their website notes, Bannos, Jr. was dubbed the “Prince of Pork” by Dana Cowin (former Food and Wine Editor-in-Chief), and in opening The Purple Pig in 2009, Jimmy Jr.” brought his love for Mediterranean food to the Windy City in fun, inventive ways – at this rustic sharable plate restaurant, conveniently located on the Magnificent Mile.”

Offering the always-delectable combination of “cheese, swine and wine,” it’s highly recommended that diners start with their specialty, Roasted Bone Marrow, paired with herbs, capers, onions, and Maldon sea salt. Other starters include a Pork Liver & Bacon Paté, paired with fried sage and grape mostarda. Vegans and vegetarians alike will enjoy Hummus + Focaccia, a chickpea puree with roasted garlic, house-made focaccia, and fried rosemary.

‘’Snacks’ are unique to The Purple Pig, and include Tuna Tartare, made with Ahi tuna, avocado, pistachio, truffle + house-made cracker. They also pair wine recommendations, such as a Picpoul, with the Tartare. Crispy Pig’s Ear is paired withkale, pickled banana peppers and a fried egg. They recommend a sparkling Prosecco as a pairing. Arancini is a combination of prosciutto, Crescenza cheese, piquillo jam, and black olive puree, to be enjoyed with a nice Cava

As Mama always said, “Don’t forget to eat your vegetables!” At The Purple Pig, it’ll be a pleasure, with Goat Cheese + Mixed Greens, a sweet and salty mix of shaved pears, toasted almonds, cranberries, balsamic vinaigrette and fried goat cheese, to be served with a Xinomavro Sparkling Wine. Or, Mushroom 3 Ways, with grilled King trumpets, Shiitake au jus, pickled onion, truffle and mushroom puree, enjoy with Vermentino. 

Pastas in a Mediterranean restaurant are a must, especially when the pastas are made in-house. Squid Ink Chittara has scallops, shrimp, and cherry tomatoes, with a light Pinot Bianco recommended. A spicy take can be found in their Orecchiette, featuring Italian sausage, rapini, Napa cabbage, and calabrian chili, to be enjoyed with Godello.

Entrees include a succulent Pork Jowl, which pairs a Berkshire Pork Jowl with Frisee’, tomato, lemon aioli, toast and a fried duck egg, and recommended with Pinot Bianco. Chicken Thigh Kebabs are served with fried smashed potatoes and tzatziki, with a Tavel Rose.

Google reviews were near-perfect: 

“So many friends recommended this place so here we are. We were warned that the dishes could be a little bit too salty so we asked for less salt. It turned out great! My favorite is the half duck. Cut it and put it in the slider with the yogurt – tastes amazing. The duck meat is very tender. My second favorite is the mussels soaked in rich tomato soup. Love this place and will come again.”

“Very delicious restaurant. We sat at the kitchen counter and saw the cooks which was a fun experience. The staff was knowledgeable and helpful. We ordered mussels, pork ribs, and a goat cheese salad. Every item was delicious in it’s own way. If recommend everyone getting some of those ribs! We will definitely make sure to come back here in the near future!”

The Purple Pig is located at 444 N. Michigan Avenue. Their hours are Sunday-Thursday, 11am-9pm, and Friday and Saturday, 11:30am-10pm. Reservations are highly recommended. For more information and reservations, click here.

Alison Moran-Powers and Dean’s Team Chicago