Looking for a small plates place...
I've been wanting to go to Purple Pig and as a friend is in town this weekend, thought it would be perfect. I'm getting freaked by the possibility of a three hour wait on a Saturday though. I looked at Longman & Eagle, but again with the waiting. What other places have similar small plates menus, oh and a great beer lineup? I don't want a standard Spanish tapas and wine place. Briefly considered Quartino but am meh on it. And if it takes reservations, all the better!
Sounds like a perfect description of The Publican. The Publican has a lot of communal tables. When you make reserations you can request a private table. I sometimes like the communal table for the opportunity to meet someone I wouldn't otherwise get to talk to.
Other really good options that fit your interests are The Bristol on Damen in Bucktown or Telegraph in Logan (around the corner from L&E). Telegraph is more of a wine bar than a beer line up, but they do have their share of really good beers on tap.
I think Quartino is "meh" also.
Bristol and Publican are great suggestions (I haven't been to Telegraph). While I think Longman & Eagle is better and more special than Purple Pig—though I heard there is a new chef at L&E—I would tell you not to give up on either. I've usually had luck at both by going at off-hours.
Also, for your out town friend: some of the nice downtown hotels have priority reservations or getting you to the head of the line at the Purple Pig.
Really? Huh, that's something I wouldn't have guessed! I don't know where he's staying except that it is downtown. I'll find out. Between you, me, and the fly on the wall, I'd love it to be Purple Pig as dinner is my treat and I've had a PP gift card burning a hole in a drawer for two years now. Heh.
We have some terrific restaurants specializing in small plates. Two of the best are GT Fish & Oyster and Sable, both in River North near the hotels. GT Fish & Oyster specializes in seafood, of course. It's owned/run by Giuseppe Tentori, the opening chef at Boka (and it's part of the Boka Restaurant Group, which gives its chefs the independence to create their own concepts). Sable serves contemporary American cuisine and is superb. Both GT Fish and Sable serve some of the best craft cocktails in the city. Both accept reservations (including on Opentable) so you don't have to wait forever to be seated. And while both are lively, neither has the oppressively loud noise level of Publican (which isn't really a small plates place, either).
I'm not sure what you mean by "a standard Spanish tapas and wine place". If you would consider a *superb* Spanish tapas restaurant, then Mercat a la Planxa is a great choice. It's in the loop and is from Jose Garces, a native Chicagoan who built a restaurant empire in Philadelphia. The food is excellent and it too is lively without being overwhelmingly loud. And they accept reservations on Opentable too.
If your friend is staying at a hotel around the Mag Mile, both Sable and GT Fish are within a short walk. If his/her hotel is in the Loop, Mercat is a short walk away.
Purple Pig is excellent as well, if you can go at an off hour to avoid the long waits. For lunch, arrive before they open the doors at 11:30, otherwise go between 1:30 and 4:30 or else after 10:00.
I think Quartino is okay. I don't think the food is as good as these other four places, so I can see why you would consider it "meh". But it's not bad, either; it's fun, it's not expensive, it's close to the downtown hotels, and you can make reservations there. I just think these others are better.