Pollack’s Dinner at The Purple Pig in 157 Words

The Purple Pig (500 N. Michigan Ave.; 312-464-1744) opened quietly. Appreciative foodies kept the room at least half full all evening. Jimmy Bannos (Heaven on Seven) was there (he’s a partner, and his son is the chef) working the room. I saw Tony Mantuano (Spiaggia) slip in and out. The place has one row of banquette seating, with all the rest high-top communal tables. Beautiful Spanish ceramic tiles on the walls. Where Publican feels like a beer-hall party, the Pig feels cozy and congenial. The menu: cured meats, cheeses, panini, smears. Lots and lots of pork. In my book, 2009 was the year of the pig. Didn’t love everything (fried sardines with lemon jam), just most everything (especially the olive-oil-poached tuna with giant white beans). Did I mention the smart and sexy room? And the dessert was evil, in a good way—warm fried brioche stuffed with chocolate chip ricotta with powdered sugar on top. Truly evil.


“Watermelon: It’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.” –Enrico Caruso (1873-1921), Italian opera singer

Six Questions for Bruce Finkelman

Finkelman, the owner of The Empty Bottle, has teamed up with three partners to launch Longman & Eagle (2657 N. Kedzie Ave.; 773-276-7110), which the PR materials say reimagines the eating, drinking, and sleeping experience of the traditional Chicago inn—presumably imagining out the communal beds, outhouses, and lice.

D: How did you get the idea for Longman & Eagle?
BF: My wife and I started going to Europe and got introduced to the neighborhood inn. So interesting—the minute you stepped into these places, you became immersed into the areas in which you were staying and became part of the day-to-day. What we are doing is saying: Welcome to Logan Square.

D: What’s the restaurant going to be like?
BF: We will be serving regional American food, I guess you would say. We’re using modern techniques in a casual environment. We are talking about quality local ingredients at affordable prices. Trying to give people an entry point into what some might consider more adventurous fare.

D: What are some highlights from the menu?
BF: Jared [Wentworth, the executive chef] has a catfish on the menu that we fell in love with. His preparation is fantastic. A wild boar sloppy Joe that he just blew us away with.

D: How about the inn?
BF: As far as the inn, the rooms will be highly designed, consciously individualized rooms. Working with local businesses to showcase their wares in the rooms. [Co-owners] Robert [McAdams] and Cody [Hudson] are designing and building all the furniture. My other partner Peter Toalson has also collaborated on the whole project.

D: Are you going to be there, working?
BF: We will all be working, but we have a bar manager, James McCann, from Delilah’s. He’ll be there all the time, and he’s bringing his large knowledge of bourbon and whiskey and craft beer. It’ll be a place where you can actually get a properly mixed cocktail. Maybe James will even wear a bowtie. We aren’t sure yet.

D: What’s the story with the name?
BF: You know the statue of the eagle in the square? The artist’s name was Evelyn Longman.

He Said It

“Totally untrue.” –Michael Cain, the owner of Kuma’s Corner (2900 W. Belmont Ave.; 773-604-8769), in response to rumors that he’s secured a place in Uptown for a second Kuma’s. While it’s true that he wants to open a second location and that Uptown is his number-one neighborhood for it, Caine is putting off scouting a place until after he recovers from a knee surgery next month.

Easy Now, Big Fella

The last days of 2009 saw the quiet opening of The Big Easy (1660 E. 55th St.; 773-643-5500), in the space that formerly housed Hyde Park Barbeque & Bakery, and before that, Orly’s, Jalapeño’s, and the original Orly’s. All four (five if you count Orly’s twice) of these restaurants have been owned by David Shopiro, who says he felt the itch to reinvent again last spring. He brought on the South Side native and Lettuce Entertain You vet Jennifer Gavin as an equity partner and together they developed a New Orleans–themed menu, but he kept one aspect that’s been constant since 1981: the bakery. “We have Creole/Cajun, southern barbecue, and a bakery under one roof,” Shopiro says. “I don’t think anyone else has this.” Everyone needs a niche.

Things to Do

  1. Pencil in a trip to The Publican (837 W. Fulton Mkt.; 312-733-9555) for the $120 grand shellfish platter, with an assortment of oysters and a bounty of seasonal oceanic delights served on a three-tier tower. Give them two days’ notice.
  2. Prix fixe it at the sister restaurants Gioco (1312 S. Wabash Ave.; 312-939-3870), Marché (833 W. Randolph St.; 312-226-8399), Opera (1301 S. Wabash Ave.; 312-461-0161), and Red Light (820 W. Randolph St.; 312-733-8880) with an entrée plus soup or salad for $20 at dinner or $10 at lunch.
  3. Marvel at the number of O’s in “BOGO TO GO,” which doesn’t rhyme with Ogopogo , sadly. “BOGO TO GO” is a deal at Carlucci Restaurant (1801 Butterfield Rd., 630-512-0990; Downers Grove) where, on Mondays from 4:30 to 9:30 p.m., you can buy one of five pastas to eat there and they’ll throw in another one to take home.

Dot Dot Dot . . .

The Coffee Studio (5628 N. Clark St.; 773-271-7881) has been one of the top ten boutique coffee shops in the country by Bon Appétit. . . . Finally repaired after a nasty fire last winter, Macello (1235 W. Lake St.; 312-850-9870) reopened at the end of December. Grand reopening event set for January 28th. . . . Pier 5736 (5736 N. Elston Ave.; 773-774-3663) will close January 10th to relocate to 5721 North Clark Street. Although you wouldn’t guess it from the addresses, the move improves the parking situation, according to the chef/owner, Peter McCarthy. . . . Under the same roof as the Mayne Stage in Rogers Park, look for Act One Café (1330 W. Morse Ave.) to open in the spring, with Jimmy Madla of Coobah as executive chef and general manager. . . . Good news, bad news from Ina’s (1235 W. Randolph St.; 312-226-8227). Good: fried chicken and waffles every day. Bad: dinner service suspended for the winter.