Publican (Restaurant, West Loop)
Fuck the Rush street steak houses. Screw the posh hotel restaurants on Michigan Ave. If you want fine dinning in Chicago that truly taps into what the locals are eating then you’re gonna have to dig a little deeper. Let’s review what’s hot in the Chicago foodie scene: Craft beers from around the world? Yep. Pork belly and all things porky? Hell yeah. Fantastic sea food in a Midwestern city? Always in style. Chef Paul Kahn and his blockbuster series of restaurants? The man might as well be King Midas himself. If you want to tap into what’s popular in Chicago then there’s no better restaurant at the moment then Publican.
I watched their iconic symbol of two pigs behind a beer barrel go up in the middle of the Fulton meat packing district and after nearly colliding with a fork lift I stopped the car and made a reservation. Since then I’ve made monthly donations to their cause. The space, designed by the equally popular restaurateur Donnie Madia, has massive wraparound communal tables that seats patrons shoulder to shoulder. This inevitably leads you to lean over to a perfect stranger and moan into their ear about how good the French bread is dipped in your copper pot of bouchot muscles. Other seating includes a sunken bar top and deep booths with saloon doors that give you a brief insight into the perspective of a corralled pig.
I’m no food critic but I honestly can’t think of an item I haven’t enjoyed here. Seafood and pork may seem like opposite ends of the spectrum but if there’s something wrong with sucking down fresh oysters while picking at a charcuterie platter then my taste buds haven’t noticed. The beer technicians are true aficionados and the wait staff (who all come from Avec, Blackbird and other Kahn joints) are very well informed. The menu lists the farm where each protein comes from in true locavore fashion, a movement Paul Kahn has served no small part in spear heading. His pork rinds are likely the star of this particular menu, landing on the Food Network’s “Best Thing I Ever Ate” and ordered constantly, their majestic puffy presence paraded around by waiters in French fry cones like little trophies.
There’s no shortage of opportunities to dine here either. Publican has beer tasting dinners and special events on a pretty regular basis. They also offer Sunday brunch, a less pricey means of sampling their food while enjoying pork where it truly shines — breakfast. There are a lot of fine dinning establishments in this city but if you’re hankering for a place as unique as it is special, you can’t go wrong with Publican.
845 W Fulton Market