My favorite restaurant in Chicago (seriously, I am not just saying that) just debuted a new breakfast menu a few weeks ago, and I was delighted when I finally had the opportunity to check it out. If you live in Chicago, then you know The Purple Pig. It is a staple on Michigan Avenue in the heart of the Magnificent Mile. If you have visited Chicago, then someone has probably recommended it to you. And if you are my friend visiting Chicago, there is a great chance we have met for drinks here.
What makes The Purple Pig so fabulous is a number of things. For one, the menu is fantastic. It boasts a wide range of unique and adventurous mezze-style menu items, a wide selection of house cured meats, a variety of cheeses from all over, and an extensive wine list that is near-impossible to read through in one sitting. Additionally, The Purple Pig provides one of the most fun atmospheres for a restaurant that I have ever been to. It is small, but lively within its quarters, and plays old school rap like Biggie and Tupac, which complements the chatter of restaurant patrons. While it is almost always busy, and the wait can be somewhat insulting for first timers, trust me when I say, it is worth it.
I have always been a late night patron of the restaurant, prepared to wait out the dinner rush and opt for late night bites and cocktails, so for me, coming to the restaurant in the light of day was a unique experience in itself.
The Purple Pig now serves breakfast Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. until 10:30 a.m. My dear friend Jen has surprisingly never been to The Purple Pig, despite being an avid-restaurant goer and having lived in Chicago six years; so she was dying to check it out. When I told her I had been invited in to try breakfast, she practically begged me to take her and immediately hired a sitter for her one-year-old.
We met at “The Pig,” as many people call it, around 9:30 a.m. and I was delighted to find the restaurant so lit, with the bright sunshine beaming into the patio windows. The restaurant was not empty, but it was lightly scattered with patrons, which is a 180 from its evening atmosphere. I love that The Purple Pig has an open concept kitchen. It is really fun to see the line cooks and bartenders working hard to prepare the food and cocktails as diligently as they do; I can only imagine the pressure of having a whole restaurant watch you while you do it.
Breakfast is served fast-casual style. You walk up to the counter and place your order, and you can wait to pick up your items to grab-and-go, or you can sit at a table and your food will be brought to you plated from the kitchen. Jen and I grabbed a corner table inside and ordered and iced coffee for her and a hibiscus strawberry tea for me.
As we perused the menu, we saw that the selections were not-your-standard brunch offerings, something I would hope for and expect from “The Pig.” As opposed to a simple breakfast sandwich, there was an English muffin with a fried egg, foie gras, truffle sausage, and membrillo (quince paste). It was absolutely delectable; sweet and savory, and the sausage had a little kick. I really enjoyed it.
Jen is not a fan of eggs, but she can do frittatas and the occasional omelet, which was wonderful because as she went to order the bagel and cream cheese (which is house made, by the way) with smoked salmon, the gentleman at the register informed us of the daily special, which happened to be a frittata with fresh vegetables. Jen couldn’t resist and ordered it.
Her frittata came as a perfect proportional slice, with a fresh side salad. She thoroughly enjoyed this, as did I; she was nice enough to let me try it as well.
We also decided to share a yogurt parfait with fresh granola, a scone with jam, and the smashed breakfast potatoes. Everything was wonderful, including the scone. Scones are typically quite dry but this one was soft and tasty. Our favorite, though, had to be the smashed potatoes. They were fried to a perfect crisp on the outside but soft and mushy on the inside, just how I like them.
Chef and owner Jimmy Bannos Jr., whom I adore (and is also easy on the eyes!), came to our table and we told him how we enjoyed everything. He told us how originally he thought breakfast would be more of a grab-and-go concept, with patrons stopping by on their way to work, but surprisingly it has proven to be a spot where people gather for breakfast and sit to enjoy a quick meal.
I absolutely love that it has become this; it offers a totally different side of the restaurant, calm and relaxed, while still offering some really unique dishes. I hope that Jimmy and his team consider expanding the menu to weekend brunch (though considering they serve food until midnight most evenings, I can understand why they might be hesitant). Additionally, the restaurant offers morning cocktails, which can be a plus for Chicago visitors to have a quick bite and a Bloody before heading to a conference or meeting, or before they hit the town to explore the city.
The Bitches Say: A resounding A. While the menu is limited, the breakfast offerings at The Purple Pig are wonderful. We can only hope they continue to add more items, and maybe expand to weekend brunch.
The Purple Pig
500 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL