When I think of tapas-style dishes that use pretty conventional ingredients in an unconventional way, I think of the Purple Pig. Located conveniently on Michigan Avenue, or more commonly known as Magnificent Mile, many customers are tourists who travel up and down the street all day slowly tearing a hole in their wallet and stop by for a relatively inexpensive meal.
Enter through the patio and walk into the restaurant where you will be greeted with dimly lit lights and chestnut colored tables and chairs. On the walls, there are racks and shelves of accrued wine as shown by the extensive wine menu provided. The restaurant is crowded but not cramped and is loud but not noisy.
James Beard Award Winning “Rising Star” Chef, Jimmy Bannos Jr. is the main chef curating an impressive menu of pork dishes, each used in a fun, creative way. There’s fried pig’s ear topped with a sunny-side-up egg and layered with crispy kale and pickled cherry peppers. Break the yolk open and smear all the ingredients together until it looks more like an artist palette rather than the Leonardo da Vinci painting it tastes like.
This restaurant plays on your palate, making sure you can taste the sweetness, the savory, the salty, the sour– basically umami having a party in your mouth. Take the Sardine Toast. It’s house cured so more briney than the already briney sardine with a light spread of avocado on the toasted slice of bread. On the top, there is a light green salad of fennel, parsley, and pickled shallots. Then, a drizzle of salsa verde. The brininess of the fish is eliminated with the fresh, sour salad, and the toast is sturdy enough to hold everything together and, in combination with the shallots, gives the dish a nice crunchy texture.
If my friend, who is very against sardines, was willing to try the toast and claimed it to be, “the best dish of the night,” I’m sure Bannos has something up his sleeves that will transform you from a doubter to an avid enthusiast.