Pork & Beer Galore at The Publican

December 12, 2010

It was time for another family birthday celebration--my sister's--so she was granted the opportunity to choose a restaurant to celebrate. Having heard great things about The Publican, we decided to go on the Sunday after Thanksgiving (as if we weren't still full from that meal!).

The West Loop restaurant is filled with wooden beams and communal tables, as well as (pig) stalls surrounding the perimeter. The warmth of the restaurant came through the numerous light orbs hanging from the ceiling. We were lucky enough to snag one of the wooden stall booths, although we had a hard time fitting in them after our meal!

Now, if you've never heard anything about The Publican, all you really need to know is that it's the perfect place to go for all things beer and pig-related. We're talking about an extensive list of local and imported brews, as well as all parts of the glorious pig. The menu itself is divided into three parts: fish, vegetable and meat.

We started out with some beers with the help of our extremely knowledgeable waiter. He recommended some seasonal winter ales, as well as Belgians to pair with our food.

The Publican is best for groups, as it is truly meant as a restaurant for sharing small plates. This allows you try to a variety of dishes off their daily-changing menu.

Seasoned Pork Rinds
Having heard great things, we started off with the no-brainer appetizer, the pork rinds. I had never had the pleasure of eating pork rinds before but these were perfectly crispy and seasoned with garlic, parmesan, and a dusting of spices.

Next up were a selection of pickled vegetables including, cucumbers, cauliflower, carrots and green beans. These were slightly salty, but mostly sweet and were a great snack before our other courses.

The Publican also offers a wide variety of fresh seafood, so we decided on the chef's sample of oysters. Although I wasn't able to tell the difference, the sampler came complete with three east coast oysters, and three west coast oysters. I hadn't had oysters in probably ten years, but these were good! You could definitely taste the fresh quality. I drizzled the oysters with a garlic chili sauce for extra oomph!

Chef's Selection of Fresh Oysters
 Continuing with the seafood theme, we ordered a pot of freshly steamed mussels. I was surprised at the sheer volume of mussels, let alone the delicious sauce comprised of butter, celery and garlic, that I so pleasantly used the homemade bread to soak up.

Mussels with Bay, Celery, Garlic and Butter
 While we waited for our other meat courses, we sampled an order of frites (listed under the vegetable portion of the menu!). Now, I'm not a huge french fry gal, but these were by far some of the best I've had, rivaling those at BBQ heaven, Smoque.

 Next were the country ribs cooked with chicories, red onion and peanuts. The tender meat fell off the bone and was perfectly complemented by the sweet sauce and salty crunch of the peanuts. This was by far my family's favorite meat dish that we ordered.

Country Ribs with Chicories, Red Onion & Peanuts
 We added another side dish (gotta eat your veggies!) of cauliflower au gratin. This version was baked with gouda cheese and sprinkled with ham crumbs of course! I only had a spoonful of this rich dish, but it made me want to eat cauliflower all the time!

Cauliflower Gratin with Gouda and Ham Crumbs
 We completed our entree courses with a serving of pork belly with sweet potatoes, olives, Israeli couscous and clams. I've had pork belly before, but never have I had it served with clams! The dish was very flavorful and not too fatty, although, let's be honest, this isn't the healthiest dish in the world. I enjoyed the couscous with it and the sweet glaze.

The last meat dish was my sister's choice, the roasted duck breast. Although, I'm not a big fan of duck, my sister said it was the most tender piece of duck she's had, and not at all greasy. The duck was served atop a bed of tuscan kale with beans, feta and radish.

Pork Belly with Sweet Potatoes, Nicoise Olives, Israeli Couscous & Clams
Duck Breast with Tuscan Kale, Flageolet Beans, Feta & Radish
 After way too many dishes and drinks, we couldn't stop there--afterall, we were celebrating a birthday! I was hesitant to order a dessert after hearing reviews that the entrees were the best part of The Publican's menu, however we decided on a pear crumble topped with vanilla ice cream. This was the sweetest ending to a perfect meal. I couldn't stop myself from digging in, scoop after delicious scoop!

Fresh Pear Crumble with Vanilla Ice Cream
There's no wonder why The Publican comes highly-recommended. The waiters are well-versed on both bacon and brews, and the out-of-the-ordinary dishes don't disappoint. The menu is constantly changing due to availability of local ingredients and is updated every few days on The Publican's web site. If you're in the mood for a quick meal, don't come to The Publican, but if you're looking for an eccentric menu and dining experience (the bathroom washing areas are a communal trough!) then you're right at home--just leave your vegetarian friends behind!

The Publican gets 5 stars for different spins on common dishes, and their amazingly vast beer menu.

The Publican
837 W. Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607

The Publican on Urbanspoon

1 comment

  1. Wow Amanda! You did a great job on that post! Amazing pictures, and commentary, truly inspiring work. Your skills in food blogging have seriously blossomed. Great Work. Keep these coming!


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