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Purple Pig’s Star Chef to Open a Pair of New Restaurants

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Purple Cow is coming next year, while Jimmy Bannos Jr. plans to open another inside Time Out Market

Jimmy Bannos Jr. at the 2015 James Beard Awards.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

As the Purple Pig ended its 10-year run on the Magnificent Mile to move to a larger space at 444 N. Michigan Avenue on June 18, chef/partner Jimmy Bannos Jr. is also working on opening two new restaurants. Bannos will serve cheese and charcuterie among the 18 vendors inside the Time Out Market in Fulton Market, which could open at the end of August. He’s also planning to open full-service restaurant focusing on rare cuts of beef. Purple Cow should open sometime next year at 160 E. Grand Avenue.

The Time Out Market restaurant doesn’t have a formal name. Bannos said Time Out wanted the chefs involved to use their restaurants’s names and be fairly straight forward. The working title is “Purple Pig Salumeria.” That’s a different philosophy compared to Piggie Smalls, Bannos’s gyros restaurant at Wells St. Market food hall. At Time Out Market, Bannos wants to take more of a European approach to sandwich making. So customers won’t see giant stuffed sandwiches on six-inch round rolls. They’ll also serve paninis.

At Purple Cow, Bannos said he’ll take the same whole animal approach he does with pigs at Purple Pig and apply that to cows. That means highlighting under-appreciated cuts like beef belly and lesser-used shoulder parts. He’ll sous vide tougher cuts to make them tender. Bannos is aware that Chicagoans may have steakhouse fatigue, but he’s not opening a traditional steakhouse.

“We will have ribeyes and filets, but that’s not going to be everything,” he said.

Those chops will also cost less compared to other Chicago steakhouses by virtue of Purple Pig using whole animals, Bannos added. They’re currently building out the space which was once the ‘70s- and ‘80s-themed bar, Reagle Beagle. Bannos said he won’t have any Jack Tripper references at his new restaurant. It will also serve pasta. Bannos never understood “Italian steakhouses.” He doesn’t want Purple Cow customers to be similarly puzzled. The wine list will be all Italian, and it’ll have a large selection of grappa, the Italian brandy.

The Purple Cow is a three-minute walk east from the new Purple Pig. The chance to move into a space so close gave Bannos the ideal timing to open another restaurant, he said. Purple Pig 2.0 is much bigger. The dining room has 120 seats versus 65 eats at the original. Instead of a four-seat chef’s counter, there’s an eight-seat counter. The new bar is 18 seats compared to the original’s 14 seats. There’s also a 20-seat dining room for private events. The old location didn’t have such a space. The kitchen is also an upgrade as the appliance will be gas. Instead of cooking on an electric plancha or struggling with induction cooktops, Bannos’s crew will get to use a grill. When they reopen Purple Pig they’ll keep the same menu. Bannos hopes that he can later add items to better utilize those new kitchen gadgets.

Chick-fil-A is reportedly moving into the old Purple Pig space. While Bannos didn’t say anything about the chain, he did say it was just time to move the restaurant. It served two million customers since 2009. Bannos said it would have been hard to sustain quality if it remained in the same space.

“It was just the amount of volume,” Bannos said. “That space was getting pounded. I made it a super-efficient kitchen, but for the next 20 years, I would have had to close the whole place and redo it to make it survive.”

Stay tuned for more details on the news spots. The Tribune first reported the story.

The Purple Pig

444 Michigan Avenue, , IL 60611 (312) 464-1744 Visit Website