Food is a subjective thing. Two people can interpret the same piece of pizza on a spectrum of "this pizza is a religious and philosophical inspiration for both my soul and baby elephants," to "dude, that pizza sucks," and in some situations, they can both be right. But every now and then, there is a restaurant where people of all tastes and perspectives can agree, and The Publican is one of those places.
When it comes to agreement, it helps that The Publican specializes in beer, pork, and oysters. If you dislike more than one of those three things, then we probably can't be friends. Honestly, you probably don't deserve friends at all. Chef/Owner Paul Kahan kills it with all of his restaurants, including Blackbird, Avec, Big Star, PQM, Nico Osteria, and Dove's Luncheonette. And as much as you may be enthralled with one or all of these places (we see you Big Star cult members), we think The Publican evokes the spirit of Chicago so well.
The Publican is a self-proclaimed homage to European beer halls where you can gather and share food with your friends, and there's no doubt about that fact upon entering the room. The high ceilings reverberate noise, while the thick wood tables and furnishings will remind you of Game of Thrones, and the majority of seating comes from a giant U-shaped communal table fit for a medieval feast. Don't be shy towards others dining near you either, because there's a pretty good chance you'll be rubbing elbows/meat plates with them. There are also some high tops to stand at for drinks and appetizers, plus enclosed booths along one wall for more intimate dining. But if we are being honest, those penalty box like sin bins kind of creep us out. Our preference is always to sit at the communal table, even with a group of four.
In terms of the food, we've eaten everything from sweet breads and duck hearts to sea urchin and oysters, plus on the weekends they serve some pretty Chronic Brunch. And if you find yourself thinking it all tastes better than similar dishes elsewhere, that's because it does. Dinners at The Publican should definitely be heavy on the meats, but make sure to get a taste of all parts of the menu, including a little bit of seafood and some veggie sides as well.
The Midwest is never shy about nudging you to indulge yourself like it's a barbaric feast, but The Publican is a place to let the fat kid in you fly.
A hearty stone pot full of mussels swimming in a buttery, mouth-watering broth.
If The Publican is paying homage to pork, then you should make sure to do your part. Start with a charcuterie plate and some cold ones to start your meal.
Order any and all of them to kick things off too.
Daily pickles are really a number of different pickled items, including onions, cucumbers, cauliflower, and sometimes more. The pickling brine is very sweet, and pickled vegetables are nice to have around.
It's a crowd-pleaser, but it pleases us.
These duck hearts were f*cking awesome. Don’t let the fact they are duck hearts scare you, because anything cooked this well deserves a taste. They came with mushrooms, ricotta, and some toasted bread. We highly recommend ordering them if available.
Porcetta is basically pork that's been deboned, seasoned, rolled up and roasted. It's often a bit on the fatty side, and we've seen it on The Publican's menu served a few different ways. Regardless of format, the meat is always top notch, and it's always something you want to order.
A staple on the menu, and one of the reasons Publican can be perfect for everyone. A juicy, whole bird over a bed of fries
These country ribs are hot sh*t like 2000 Nelly climbing the charts. That would be a little broccolini, cashew, and chile-garlic vinaigrette on top.
Sorry baby pig, everybody should eat your tender goodness too.