This past weekend I celebrated my birthday with a trip to Chicago’s most highly anticipated new restaurant: The Publican. Brought to us by the same folks that own Avec and Blackbird, The Publican is in the west loop on Fulton Market. The space is surprisingly large compared to the previous restaurants and, perhaps not surprisingly, minimalist. It seems to be modeled after a European beer hall and the dining room is dominated by a giant communal table that wraps around the room. The space was sort of what I expected, I don’t know what it is about Chicago but I am never very excited by restaurant design here. It is always almost good, but somehow falls flat. I was, however, a huge fan of the tableware. Plates, glasses and napkins were beautiful and well chosen, a mix of mismatched vintage-inspired pieces.
The food did not disappoint. The menu is primarily seafood and pork. We started with the Chef’s plate of oysters, a sampling of each variety of oyster they offer. Bryan is kind of repulsed by oysters, so I ate most of the plate by myself. They were amazing—especially the Kumamoto. We followed that with with a nice salad and what is perhaps the best thing I have ever eaten in Chicago: The Boudin Blanc. The Boudin Blanc (chicken and pork sausage) was served with crispy hashbrowns, frisee, and roasted grapes! Seriously, this was incredible. I have thought about it every day since then. Bryan and I then split the roasted chicken, which was served with frites. The fries were the saltiest thing I have ever been served in a restaurant. It was only their second night, so I think some problems are expected but the kitchen seems generally a little heavy-handed with the salt (and I love salt, so it has to be pretty bad for me to complain). We finished up with a delicate waffle served with honey butter and figs, it was delicious. I should mention too that we tried a couple of really excellent beers. The beer menu is great and the server seemed pretty well-versed and was happy to help us make decisions.
I will go back and order myself the Boudin Blanc and a beer. I will do this as often as possible. It would be worth a trip just for that. Hopefully the cooks will have learned better control of their salt shakers by the time you arrive and it will be a really special night out.
The Publican is at 845 W. Fulton Market in Chicago. 312-733-9555
***Apologies for not taking photos of the food- I was too enthralled by the oysters and beer and forgot about my camera.