Here’s to the Swine
That Animal Divine
who through Mud and Slime
Grit and Grime
Gorges over Time
Into Meats Divine
When Chicago Gluttons caught rumor that Paul Kahan and his boy Brian Houston (masterminds of Blackbird and Avec) were forming like Voltron with Donnie Madia and Terry Alexander (creators of del Toro and Sonotheque) we expediently readied our cutlery.
TOC and MenuPages blogs’ success in predicting The Publican’s opening closely resembled CBS & NBC 2000 Presidential election coverage. After various sample menus and weeks of correspondence from dem crazy kids ova at the “Yelp Sewing Circle”, we finally sat down to reap harvest. Don’t get it twisted, caution still reigned. As we’ve learned before, hype and swine can quickly turn into smoke and mirrors.
After putting our names in (there are no reservations at The Publican) we were ushered to the bar. Knowing that the brew list was as daunting as House legislation, we strong armed our way past the mob to the fertile crescent. This area had two “high tables” where patrons could dine on the light menu which featured 3 aged hams and 7 types of oysters from the ball we call Earf.
Because heads were either waiting to be sat or had no intention of being sat, the bar area was as constipated as my Pops after a week sans-Metamucil. Much like Avec, the wait staff intermingled with the crowd, scooping up drinks and small plates from the open kitchen creating a Wii-like interactive experience. Sound reverberated off the high ceilings providing an audio score which trumped the various .mp3s pumped out of the sound system.
The aesthetic at The Publican is neo-public house fused with swank hotel ballroom. The walls and ceiling are topped with textured wallpaper. Brass separates the two tones and also suspends the globes which light the room. 4-top booths line the wall and long communal tables fill the rest of the dining area. Many people have complained about the lack of ornaments at The Publican, but I interpreted this differently. It’s almost like the people actually BECOME the art in this space.
As we chatted it up with some of Chi-Tilla’s finest, the second hand on the clock turned profusely. Word to the wise: hit The Publican with a large party and seatability increases exponentially. While schwilling micro-brews, we noticed that there were two seats open for at least 40 minutes…of course, these were the very seats that ended up as our dining space. Was this planned or mere oversight?
Whatever the fuck, I quickly got over my saltiness.
10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5
We started off with the Scallop Crudo which featured scallops, Pacific Sun extra virgin olive oil, pinenuts, yuzu, and scallions. Placing all components of the dish on a forkful allowed me to fully comprehend why this was the evening’s “catch of the day.” The scallops shared the spotlight of the dish with the pinenut’s roasted flavor as well as the sharpness of the scallions.
Our sea voyage continued with the Chef’s selection of Oysters. Adjectives like, “sweet, buttery, briny, and rich” described our smorgasbord of oysters from Hood Canal to New Zealand. I can’t even front that I could taste the differences between each of these mollusks…but then again, I aint seeing no ADP paycheck in my mailbox for these food reviews.
At halftime, we asked for the server’s choice. Five minutes later he came out with the Burrata; a dish composed with KinniKinnick Farms finest produce. Simple and straightforward. Brussel sprouts, pecans, balsamic, and fresh mozzarella. Moms around the World need to cop this recipe, QUICK.
After ordering up a bomber of Three Floyd’s Moloko Milk Stout we popped and locked our way to the meat portion of the menu.
First up was the Crispy Sweetbread Schnitzel. At first bite, this tasted much like Shake ‘n’ Bake Country Fried Steak. People, what’s IN the breaded coating is what truly matters. Well its name is thymus gland…never forget that shit like 9/11. Buttery, bouncy, boisterous.
We closed our digestion traps with some Wagyu Steak Tartare, aggressively working organic egg into the meat like Grandma spoons lard into her buttermilk biscuits. The steak collabed with a couple handfuls of frites fried in duck fat. All the rawness made my stomach fear for daylight hours. But no worries on the back end, CG fam. From here on out, Ima go old school and start ordering ALL my meats uncooked neanderthal styles. Public school administrators worried about sagging SAT scores? Try serving up 5 oz. patties of this shit at lunchtime.
Sitting on 70-100 varieties of local, regional, and international beers alongside 12 rotating taps, The Publican has become a new beacon for those who frequent Fulton Market on the steady and just want a decent snifter or two. When dining, get to know your neighbors; swap dishes and sample brew…we sure as hell did.
The Publican could be interpreted as the antithesis of Hopleaf: food first; beer second. On the contrary, the Blackbird Group creates a dining experience where beer and cuisine compliment each other exquisitely. In Joe Six-Pack terms, The Publican is Hopleaf with a pimpsuit on. Neat, loud as hell, elegant at times, moderate bling, and def all business (AB). Really do’, a pork belly cookoff would clear this argument right up.