7.5
CHI

Publican Anker

Perfect For: Action at the Bar Brunch Casual Weeknight Dinner Eating At The Bar First/Early in the Game Dates
PHOTOS: Sandy Noto

If you’ve spent time eating in Chicago, you know that The Publican has established itself as one of the cities greatest hits, showcasing pork, beer, and oysters all in a communal Medieval European feast setting. It’s an excellent restaurant, but it’s also an aggressive meal. Now, however, you can get a Publican-esque meal in a more casual and informal setting at their spinoff Publican Anker.

Think of it this way: If the original Publican is a black tie wedding complete with tuxedos and bow-ties, then Publican Anker is a casual backyard tent wedding. On one hand, they’re totally different parties. On the other, a wedding is a wedding, which means you can always count on things like somebody’s cousin getting too drunk and embarrassing themselves. In this case, the things you can count on are similarities in the food and those signature giant spherical Publican lights.

Publican Anker is a real laid back place in a bar-like Wicker Park setting. It’s the kind of spot where you can grab a quick meal during the week, take an early date, or meet up with friends on the weekend for drinks and food. All in all, it’s a modern day neighborhood saloon with a menu that has a bit of everything. They’ve got you covered whether you want oysters, an avocado salad, mussels, blood sausage, whole fish, roasted chicken, or a burger. It’s all good, and so are the drinks.

The space itself is a weird shape mostly because it’s an old building on Milwaukee right where it converges with Damen at North Ave. As a result, the setup leads to two different seating spaces. There’s a bar area on one side and two long communal tables on the other, similar to the original Publican. The communal seating can feel cramped at times, so we prefer to grab a seat near the bar.

We support you going to Publican Anker when you’re looking for something more casual but still fun. We don’t support you being the annoying drunk cousin at a wedding.

Food Rundown

Oysters

There won’t be a huge list of different oyster options, but you can count on at least one East Coast option and one West Coast option.

Pickles

These are a surprisingly good small appetizer if you want something to nibble on. The crackers that comes with the pickles are delicious.

Chicken Wings

You won’t regret ‘em.

Grilled Cucumbers

This may surprise you, but this is our favorite dish here. It's a pile of grilled and seasoned cucumbers come with a pile of whipped ricotta, zhoug (a Middle Eastern spicy green herb mix), and some crust bread. Spread a little cucumber, ricotta, and zhoug on the bread for an excellent bite.

Avocado Salad

There are a couple of good and basic salad options, but we’re into this one with a little grilled broccolini and avocado. Simple but tasty.

Escarole Heart Salad

This is not a basic salad. It’s a bowl of escarole with a bunch of chicken gizzards, bacon vinaigrette, pear, and a lot of crusty bread. In fact, let’s establish that we like this dish, but it isn’t a salad at all. Chicken gizzards and bread way outnumber the escarole and pear. Give it a try if you want something a little different.

Fried Eggplant

Do you like fried eggplant and fried cheese curds? That’s essentially what this is, just more fancifully described as fried eggplant with Wisconsin haloumi and spiced honey. Verdict: fried veggies and cheese curds taste good.

Dorade

A whole piece of flakey white fish with bones and everything. It's great to split with another person if you’re going to share a couple things. Ask them to debone it for you if you don’t want to fight with it all night.

Half Roasted Chicken

Just like like OG Publican, the half chicken here is really good.

Burger

A solid burger, and you could easily go to Publican Anker just to grab a burger and have a drink in the bar.

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