Has the Purple Pig always been busy? It certainly appears that way. Since opening in late 2009 in its first location steps off Michigan Avenue, the Pig — from chef-owner Jimmy Bannos Jr., who created a something-for-everyone menu highlighting shareable plates with Mediterranean influence — has hardly had a chance to breathe.
How many seats are at the Purple Pig?
Erik Petrucci: We have around 110 to 115 total seats between the bar, main dining room, and the chef’s counter. We lost that outside patio when we moved across the street. One of the big reasons we wanted to move into this building is that there was an initial plan to build out a patio, but then finances and things like that since the pandemic back-tracked on all of that.
How many covers do you do on an average night?
We do anywhere from 250 to 350. It really depends on the night. For us, we can be just as busy on Tuesdays as a Saturday. It depends on events in the city.
What about your busiest nights?
Those are close to the busiest, but there are nights we teeter on the 400 mark. We can’t physically fit more because we’re limited by space.
What about at lunch?
Some lunches, especially closer to and on weekends, some of those daytimes can be just as busy as our nights. We’re seeing 150 to 250 people. Some days we’re over 100 guests cover counts even before walk-ins are taken into consideration.
When do new reservations drop?
We can accept reservations through the system as far as three months out.
How quickly do prime-time tables get snatched up — both during the day and at night?
We are fully booked by two to three weeks from a specific date. We’re 80% if not fully booked on busier nights. It really depends on what’s going on in the area with draws to the hotels.
Are there certain days or times when there’s a better chance to score a prime-time reservation?
For us, Tuesday and Wednesday. There are a handful of restaurants around us that aren’t open on Mondays so we can do more of the business in the area on Mondays. So Tuesday and Wednesday are the nights if you’re looking for a last-minute reservation at those times.
How long is the usual Resy Notify list?
It’s about a dozen or so. We get more people that will call in looking for a table instead of putting themselves on that list. We try to accommodate Notifys as much as possible. If we get someone who cancels, we’ll slide people from the list into that spot. I love that list.
Do you recommend that customers use the Notify List to get a reservation?
I do. I also say, if someone is able to get on the list and call, that’s the best bet. Just because of how busy we get, someone on the team may miss the Notify list. Whatever avenue you can take to get into us, do that so we can accommodate you however we can.
Are seats held for walk-ins?
We do have a handful of tables, about five total, that are not included on the Resy platform. We hold those for walk-ins or if we have reservations going over their times to accommodate people and stay within their quoted reservation times.
How long is the waitlist for walk-ins?
6:30 to 8 is the busiest time. Lunch up to 5 p.m. is a minimal wait — 20 to 30 minutes tops. When we are fully booked, wait times can get closer to 45 minutes to an hour. Luckily we have the bar and chef’s counter, which are first-come first-served and tend to turn quicker. For those areas, the only thing is people have to stay within the lobby area and the host team manages those seats. We keep a running list for every area in the restaurant, including whatever opens up first.
What’s the best time for a walk-in to come by to get seated promptly?
Honestly, before 5 o’clock. If you’re coming in before 5, there’s a good chance you’ll walk in and sit right away, except on Saturday or Sunday, you may wait a little bit.
Can people grab wine or a cocktail while they wait for their table?
We don’t have the ability within the building to do cocktail service like we used to on the other patio. Now we’re forced to only allow the people to drink within the restaurant. But if you are able to find a space around the bar area, we’re okay with that, but it’s not a full-on cocktail area.
Any do’s and don’ts for guests trying to get in?
Do: If you see we’re fully booked online, still definitely give us a call. We’re able to often accommodate people if you call.
Don’t: Don’t forget we have validated parking at 516 N. Rush – but that’s also a Do. That’s the best parking lot to use. It’s $12 for 3 hours. Also, we work on a tipped house, so everything is pooled together. So the host team would split any tips shelled out to them. We don’t discourage tipping to any team members, but the general attitude is to treat everyone with respect. There’s no real don’ts though. We’re a laid-back team and want everyone to feel at home at and come along for the ride.
If I’m flying solo, how likely is it for me to pull up to the bar without a reservation and order a glass of wine and some small plates?
It’s easier than people think. Based on different parties and seating preferences, there will be one open seat between open parties. It’s sometimes easier for one person to get in than groups, especially at the bar and chef’s counter.
What would you say is the best seat in the house? Can someone request that specific table, or their favorite table?
The chef’s counter. Being able to see what we do here and the way the kitchen team operates — executing such a large menu in a small space, and giving everyone that walks into the restaurant a view of what we do — it’s the coolest place to sit. You get to interact with the cooks, ask questions, and it’s a different vibe and atmosphere. If you’re only going to eat at the Purple Pig one time, that’s the place to sit.
What are some of the must-order dishes?
There’s a handful the Purple Pig was built off of that are still on the menu. The top three since I started: salt-roasted beets with whipped goat cheese and pistachios; the milk-braised pork shoulder served with mashed potatoes, gravy, braised kale, and deep fried lentils; and the crispy fried pig ears with fried kale and pickled cherry peppers, served with a fried egg on top.
Friends and I snagged a key four-top on a Saturday night before hitting the bars. What should we absolutely not miss from the menu and bar?
Right now, the cocktail menu is super seasonal so we don’t have any cocktails that stay on more than a month or two. Look at the by-the-glass selections for the wines. We have an extensive list we’re known for and our beverage director does a good job picking wines to match our food. I recommend trying the pairings we have listed on the menu with the dishes. Every menu item on our main menu is paired with a selected wine by our sommelier.
What are some of the staff favorites — and are there any “secret” menu items?
For me, if I had to pick one item it would be the Spanish octopus. It’s one of the best dishes on the menu. They braise the octopus with red wine and wine corks, which allegedly imparts extra tenderness to the octopus. It’s an old wives’ tale. It’s served simply with green beans, fingerling potatoes, and salsa verde. It’s bright and flavorful. And we get a lot of great feedback on the special desserts the chef puts up. They’re new every week.
Set the scene for a busy weekend night. What’s going on at Purple Pig and what’s the vibe like?
You’re walking into a high-energy establishment, you’re being greeted warmly. You’re brought into this cool experience with lively music. You hear the kitchen team communicating, the hustle and bustle, the bartender making cocktails. It’s an intimate feeling in a smaller dining space. For us, we have that family feel where you’re walking into that holiday party and greeting everyone. It’s louder than your average restaurant. The vibe is unmatched.