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A Critic Raves That Rebooted Purple Pig Remains Elite

Plus, a funky wine bar is no fuss

The modern dining room with European touches.
The Purple Pig’s new location.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

The Purple Pig is more than a decade old but Jimmy Bannos Jr.’s “rustic, flavor-intense cooking” is still as excellent as ever, writes Phil Vettel. Though the Tribune critic fails to address Bannos’s legal troubles at Chicago Gourmet last fall, he does praise the chef for managing to “experiment with new dishes while keeping fan favorites around.” The highlights among starters is a “groaning board of a charcuterie platter,” featuring more than a dozen house-made salumis and sausages, and pork tripe served over mung beans, lentils, and sweet-and-sour cabbage that’s a “revelation.” Pastas are a “strength” too, and the bucatini with pecorino, black pepper, and guanciale is “pure, creamy indulgence.” And foie gras paired with brioche ice cream and thick lines of pistachio butter and raspberry jelly is a riff on PB&J with “great flavor payoff.” On the wine side, the “immense, impressive” list boasts about 800 bottles and over 100 by-the-glass pours. [Tribune]

Outside Voices “blur[s] the lines between the neighborhood tavern and a proper wine bar” according to Maggie Hennessy. The new spot from Scofflaw Group offers a daily-changing menu that “focuses on individual flavors and textures in each of the 20-odd available wines.” On a recent visit, the options included a chilled cabernet sauvignon blend that “smelled like port wine and tasted like the vanilla-tinged aroma of piped tobacco,” and a “light but a little funky” Lambrusco that “buzzed like berry-flavored applause on [Hennessy’s] tongue.” And while bottles lean “pricier than your everyday pub,” the “vibe is unmistakably no fuss.”

Hennessy also thinks okonomiyaki hotspot Gaijin is “complexly flavored and wholly satisfying.” Chef Paul Virant acknowledges his take on Japan’s popular comfort dish is “at best that of an enamored outsider,” but it’s nonetheless a respectful success. The Osaka-style savory pancake is a “textural triumph, with a crispy griddled exterior shielding a custardy center.” Mixed with tempura shrimp, sweet corn, creole butter, puffed rice, and okonomiyaki sauce, the finished product catapults itself into “best-of-2020 contention.” The vegetarian version of the Hiroshima-style doesn’t “work quite as well,” though — the layers of ingredients taste “like a mishmash of fungal and oceanic funk.” Kakigori is another specialty that diners should save some room for. The pineapple variation stars shaved ice drizzled with sweetened condensed milk alongside brown butter crumble, upside-down cake, and a buttermilk-pineapple sherbet center. [Time Out]

There’s a small but delicious lineup of Spanish delights at Andersonville’s new Little Madrid Tapas Cafe. Mike Sula proclaims the patatas bravas to be the finest in the city; the fried potatoes are “delicately crispy outside, soft and creamy within, and they’re draped with [a] glossy ‘fire’ sauce, smoldering with smoked pimento.” The slim menu also features classics like tortilla espanola, bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with cheese, and albondigas in tomato sauce. Paella is another specialty, although it’s only available in limited quantities so ordering ahead is recommended. [Reader]

Virtue has “conquered the prickly Hyde Park community” as well as the rest of the city. Jeff Ruby says Eater Chicago’s 2019 Restaurant of the Year is sometimes uneven “but on recent visits, the flavors have clicked into place.” Chef Erick Williams’s “best dishes show a lighter touch,” such as flaky blackened catfish with Carolina Gold rice, smoky barbecued carrots, and carrot puree. However, the “heartier dishes are rarely oppressive.” Creamy chicken liver, plum jam, and mustard seeds spread on thick toast is “like being tucked into a warm bed on a cold night,” while braised beef short ribs are “practically candy, every bit as soft as the creamed spinach and crushed potatoes beneath them.” For dessert, “decadent yet delicate pies” include a vegan coconut cream with oats and slivered almonds. At Virtue’s worst, there’s a “herky-jerky rhythm that bounces from chaos to comfort to boredom while you wait for dishes.” Ultimately, though, it’s an “exhilarating bustle” with an “infectiously upbeat vibe that other restaurants strive for but rarely achieve.” [Chicago]

WoodWind “orchestrates a likeable lunch, with a good menu, reasonable prices and a soothing atmosphere.” Graham Meyer says that starters generally outdo the mains, such as house-made ricotta with honey and grilled toast. “Enjoyable” chicken skins done in the style of chicharrones get a “dusting of Buffalo-sauce-flavored powder” and are served with blue cheese foam, and the roasted carrot salad with nuts, greens, and sheep’s milk yogurt “combine[s] textures impressively.” The big miss is a “strange” burger with a “gray patty, prominent tomato jam and copious shredded lettuce, coming off sort of like a ground beef parmigiana sandwich.” [Crain’s]

Virtue

1462 E. 53rd Street, Chicago, IL

Outside Voices

3204 West Armitage Avenue, , IL 60647 Visit Website

Little Madrid

5661 N. Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60660 Visit Website

WoodWind

259 East Erie Street, , IL 60611 (312) 283-4270 Visit Website

The Purple Pig

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

Gaijin

950 West Lake Street, , IL 60607 (312) 265-1348 Visit Website

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