In a world where the term “gastropub” is commonplace, bars serving upscale cuisine instead of greasy hot wings are just about everywhere you look. In Chicago, the gastropub is not only mainstream, but as universal as the hot dog joint. In the case of Paul Kahan’s gastropub, however, the Publican (much like his Blackbird and Avec) is not just another gastropub—it’s a destination not to be missed.
Publican is focused on beer and that list is so extensive and eclectic that it would surprise the connoisseur and certainly delight the enthusiast. Serving up delectable, mostly midwest, pork and fish-centered eats in an environment reminiscent of an aging beer hall meets mod-hip eatery, it is maybe as close to heaven as any of us ever intend to get.
Start with the yummy, spicy, crunchy Slagel Farm (Fairbury, Illinois) pork rinds that melt in your mouth and a half dozen oysters from the raw bar. These two are the perfect accompaniment with a good Belgium beer. Ask your servers for their favorite picks and parings, as they are all incredibly knowledgeable. Next up—the chef selection of three hams served with house-made goat butter and crusty peasant bread. You could stop there, but why? If you are a fan of charcuterie, don’t miss the platter with a pork pie, guinea hen galantine, sausage, pickles & mustards. The Waygu beef entrée is amazingly tender buttery. And the showstopper is Publican’s roasted chicken—yes, chicken. The chicken, also from the Slagel family farm, is served with slices of house-made summer sausage and perfect frites. The chicken is seasoned to perfection and some of the juiciest I have ever had. Don’t miss the sides at Publican either—creamy, cheesy cauliflower au gratin; frites topped with a fried egg; organic, summer white asparagus; or the amazing beet, creamy buratta cheese salad.
The menu changes seasonally and is never quite the same as the time before, so foodies, BEWARE! If you liked something, it may not be on the menu your next visit. But one thing always remains unchanging at the Publican—quality, never compromised and pretty close to flawless. Details: www.thepublicanrestaurant.com