Can you believe that this visit 2 weeks ago was my first time at The Publican? I’ve had reservations a handful of times but for some reason or another we always had to cancel – thankfully, not this time. Executive Chef Paul Kahan’s other restaurants (Blackbird, avec, Big Star, Nico Osteria) are without a doubt my favorites in the city (along with Bavette’s, of course), and now, not surprisingly, I’m very happy to add The Publican to that list.
When we walked into The Publican I couldn’t help but feel like the dining room was giving me a giant bear hug. Odd way to describe a restaurant – maybe – but the space felt so warm, welcoming, and familiar and that’s exactly how it made me feel. From the oversized heritage hog paintings to the rustic decor and long communal tables resembling a European beer hall, it was the perfect spot to settle in and enjoy a great meal with friends.
We arrived for our reservation just as they opened at 10am and as we waited for our Bloody Marys, complete with beer backs, the dining room quickly filled up and was buzzing with pre-St. Patty’s excitement. We lost track of time over pickled garnishes and good conversation with my cousin and her husband but quickly got back to business as we began to see some of the mouth-watering plates leaving the kitchen. The Publican’s menu changes frequently based on seasonal ingredients that are available locally. Responsible and exciting – I’m all about that farm-to-table thang.
I ordered the Corned Beef & Cabbage and it officially put all other corned beef & cabbage that I’ve had and will ever have to shame. A sizable All-Clad bowl filled with smoked shoulder, cabbage, dill, cornichon, sour cream, and rye was set in front of me and I had to remind myself to come up for air. The fresh dill and the cool sour cream mixed with those tender chunks of beef and warm cabbage was The Business. Remember when I said the dining room gave me a great big bear hug? Well, this dish jumped in and did the same.
Other orders at the table were the Pork Schnitzel with black beans, potatoes, harissa aioli, and fried egg and the Dry-Aged Sirloin with cornbread pudding, mojo rojo, sunny side eggs, and radish. Both were really delicious dishes that everyone enjoyed, although I am very happy I went with my gut and gave the corned beef a try. It’s likely that it won’t be on the menu when I return, but that’s the beauty of a fantastic restaurant like The Publican – it just means another great dish will take its place, and I’ll have something new to gush about next time.
The Publican is located at 837 W Fulton Market in Chicago‘s West Loop neighborhood.