If you’re on the corner of Clark and Monroe, you may have seen the Cochon Volant (“flying pig”) French restaurant across the street from Exelon Plaza. It’s the corner restaurant with several flying pigs adorning its sides. I’ve been a fan of pigs for a long time, both as animals and as food.
Black wooden fences with flower boxes and white tables surround the outside. The dark-tinted glass windows block almost any view of the restaurant from the outside. I always wanted to go there, at least once. Its dark-tinted glass and black metal doors intimidated me, but one day I finally gathered my courage, spun through the revolving door and landed in a world of light.
The woodwork, white walls, and white ceilings were warm and welcoming compared the restaurant’s dark exterior. Unlike the outside, light freely flows in from the outside and the outside world is quite visible. The tall ceilings make the place seem more spacious than it actually is. The floor is a mixture of plain and mosaic tile. The metal wire chandelier in the center holds several white lights as if they were Easter eggs. High top long tables, small tables, and two pillars flank the entrance. Black metal branch art runs along the ceiling. Flying pig artwork runs across the top of the bar in the back northwest corner. There’s also a full bar in the back.
There was no posted dress code. I sat down to eat and glanced at the other customers. One man had on slacks and a dress shirt with no tie. The heat was stifling, so I followed suit, took off my own tie, and stuffed it in my bag. Another man wore beige cargo shorts and a green short-sleeved polo. My waiter wore a denim apron with individual pen pockets in the left breast pocket. Even with my dress shirt and suspenders, I was not the most casually-dressed guy there.
I ordered mussels, a type of shellfish, in a mildly spicy red soup with fries, sour cream, and two thick half-slices of bread ($19.95). Pulling the mussels from the shells requires both dexterity and caution; too much force will send soup flying. It reminded me of a sunken treasure hunt, with each mussel being the treasure inside. I repeated this process about 18 times for 18 mussels. Every mussel tasted like a miniature victory in my mouth; the victory of man over seafood; nevermind that someone else caught and prepared them for me. They tasted even better when mixed with the sour cream. The fries, which came out in a metal bucket lined with fake newspaper, were crisp and barely greasy. The thick bread was fresh and did a great job of mopping up the sweet and mild soup.
At the end of the meal, I sat there next to my bowl full of empty shells and felt satisfied. My service was good, but a little slow. Then again, I did come in at about 2:15, the end of their lunch shift. Cochon Volant is a lot less scary than it looks from the outside. In retrospect, a restaurant with gold-outlined flying pigs painted on the outside shouldn’t have been scary at all.
More information and up-to-date breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus are available on the Cochon Volant’s site: http://www.cochonvolantchicago.com/
100 W Monroe St,
Chicago, IL, 60603
By Andrew Macas