It was just another night out, nothing special. The husband and I were looking for a new restaurant to try. Being fans of gastropubs, we headed towards The Publican, a new venture in the west loop of Chicago that is the partial creation of one of my favorite chef, Paul Kahan. We called up Dan and Claire, our cohorts in chunk, and made a date. Little did we know it was a night that would end in unbridled gluttony. Ok. Maybe we did know. But the onslaught of glut still shocked us a bit. And considering how much we eat? That’s saying a LOT.
The Publican boasts a beer hall atmosphere with delicious pub-style food that has a slightly higher price tag. If you’ve eaten at Blackbird or Avec, you are willing to pay this cost. While waiting for a spot to open up at the long, communal tables, Adam and I stood at their tall bar tables in the center of the room to have a drink and a snack. I am pretty sure I went for one of the only draft ciders on the menu, and we decided to start off with some pork rinds with vinegar and salt for $5 USD. I was so enamored with these crispy bits of pig skin that I completely forgot to take a photo. Bad food blogger! But seriously, I have NEVER tasted pork rinds like this…it tasted the freshest, most delicious pork you have ever tasted, plus a dusting of vinegar and salt that was so potent, it seems like they concentrated they flavors into powdered form and little sprinkled it on top of the rinds. I found it difficult to save a few for the friends we were meeting up with. Wow. So. Freaking. Good. We only had to wait around 20 minutes or so for a space for four, so that rocks, and our food came out with surprising speed. We started with the Charcuterie plate ($12 USD), housemade pickles of the day (swiss chard that day, I believe)$6 USD and the steak tartare ($18 USD).
I was a big fan of the charcuterie plate, especially the chicken liver pate. The plate also had country pate, a pork pie, and something else that slips my mind. They gave a nice assortment of meat and toppings, and the toppings were so good, we ate them when all the meat was gone. The perfect sized plate for three people, but with four, we destroyed it.
The pickles were also delicious. I believe there were giardinera pickles and a bread and butter pickle, and a pickled swiss chard. Pickles are not hard to make, but you hardly ever see them made from scratch. I appreciated seeing them made fresh in a restaurant. So much more flavor.
This was my least favorite of the appetizers. I like a good steak tartare, but if you have to serve me raw ground beef, I like it to be highly seasoned, and this was just…well, raw ground beef. The egg yolk helped a bit, but for the price, definitely not my favorite of the evening. For the mains, we split two. The first was the half wood-roasted chicken with summer sausage and frites, which I believe was $15 USD.
This was another favorite of mine, right up there with the pork rinds. There was a spicy rub on the chicken that made it insanely delicious, and the sausage was perfectly seasoned. The Publican prides themselves on putting fried eggs on everything, and while it was fun, it wasn’t entirely necessary. But I won’t admit to that in public. Gotta protect my gastro street cred. The other main was the pork ribs, I believe, $15 USD.
I don’t really remember much about the ribs. I know they had thin slices of a watermelon radish on top, but other than that, meh. Pretty forgetable. Now, there is no website for The Publican, so my prices listed above may be a bit off (as in they might be more expensive). I believe a gastropub should be a place you feel comfortable in, and you dig so much from a drinking and eating perspective, you want to come back over and over again, no matter what the price is. This is how I judge my gastropubs. Does the beer list have something on there that a cider-loving gal like me can indulge in? Does the food taste so good, I dream about even after I leave the place stuffed to the gills? For The Publican, well, I liked it, but I didn’t love it. It did have decent cider, even though it was $10 for a single glass of it. The snack part of the menu was delicious, and while the mains were okay, I wouldn’t call them cravable, something that would draw me back again, especially for the prices. As a group of four sharing snacks, mains and drinks, we dropped $160. We left still a tiny bit hungry and not entirely satisfied. To me, that is not money well spent. Granted, it was my first trip to the place, so take that as you will. The concept is still great, and I always appreciate a restaurant that makes EVERYTHING from scratch and tries to source their food locally. It is not a restaurant I will eat at every week, but I will definitely try it again. Afterward, we decided to hit up Margie’s Candies. Margie’s is a Chicago institution, a true old fashioned soda shop with the biggest sundaes you have ever seen in your life, and a 20 minute wait @ 10pm on a Friday. When we finally sat down, we each indulged in a sundae except for Adam, who had a soda. I went with my usual favorite, the butterscotch sundae. For $4, this behemouth is a bargin.
Oh, and did I mention that they serve it with a GRAVY BOAT full of hot topping? In this case, butterscotch, which is probably the most underrated ice cream topping in the country but secretly rocks so hard, sometimes people just can’t handle it? Let me show you again.
Margie’s, while unbelievably delicious, made me feel like my jeans were strangling my body. It didn’t help that it is a tiny-ass shop with like, 8 booths, and they had shoved the four of us into a booth that can seat 6 with ANOTHER group of four. But do you think that stopped me from sucking up my river pf melted ice cream and butterscotch? Nope. It is times like these I am thankful for being a Hindu. My religion has no laws about overindulging being a sin. But after my jeans strangled me some more with the stealth of a fighter ninja, I was thinking maybe it should. ~LTG!