52 Weeks: The Publican, Chicago, IL
Week 31 of 52
(we are going to get caught up this week. sorry for the delay)
837 W. Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607
Type of Establishment: Gastropub, Pork orgy
Visit: To say “I have been meaning to visit The Publican” is a vast understatement. I feel deeply ashamed that it took me two months of Chicago residency to make it over there. Fate would have it that the must-attend art openings last evening were a mere 3 blocks away from this holy grail of Chicago beerdom. As everyone knows, you can’t go to those things sober. The time was right.
Beers on Tap:
Green Flash West Coast I.P.A., Green Flash Brewing Co.
Moloko Milk Stout, Three Floyds Brewing Co.
Founders Dirty Bastard, Founders Brewing Company
The Czar, Avery Brewing Company
New Holland Black Tulip Trippel Ale, New Holland Brewing Company
Long Thai Rainbow Rye, Half Acre Beer Company
Weihenstephaner Original, Brauerei Weihenstephan
Minx, Goose Island (this beer is mindblowing and well worth the $10+ dollars you will have to shell out for it. Find and imbibe at all costs)
Monk’s Café Flemish Sour Red Ale, Brouwerij Van Steenberge N.V.
Bluebird Bitter, Coniston Brewing Co, Ltd.
De Ranke XX Bitter, Brouwerij De Ranke
Ayinger Bräu Weisse, Privatbrauerei Franz Inselkammer KG
Bottles: Way too many to list. Full selection here, highlights include Founder’s Breakfast Stout, Victory Wild Devil, Dogfishhead Bitches Brew, Autumn Maple and 2 Turtle Doves from The Bruery, and all of the Goose Island, Jolly Pumpkin, New Holland and Two Brothers offerings.
Food Options: “Pork based” – need I say more? Having only partaken in their “afternoon snack” menu, I will limit my commentary to that, but I visually devoured their dinner menu as well as the drool-worthy plates parading by me.
Verdict: Sans the surly hosts, Publican gets a perfect score from For Whom The Beer Toales!
Right off the bat: terrible impression by the host and hostess. They were visibly irritated by our party of six (for which there was more than ample room in the bar area) and rude to everyone in line, going so far as to snap at someone for taking a menu to look at! I expected a little more from a place with such a far-reaching reputation, especially at 5:30 on a Thursday.
Luckily our server Christine, who was as knowledgeable about the menu (food and beverage alike) as she was friendly and patient (my party had about a zillion questions, she showed no sign of annoyance or condescension), turned our frowns upside down.
The interior of the restaurant is beautifully executed. The main dining room is lined with stall-like tables (you are literally closed into them) that provide cozy privacy. There are more family-style dining tables with high backed chairs that provide large party seating throughout the rest of the room.
What really tickled me was the adorable “standing bar” area where we ended up. There is a small cluster of two-tiered round tables at bar height that are perfect for a post-work drink and some shared plates with friends. I really have a soft spot for the standing bar, so many places in Chicago will shuttle you into a formal dining setting (sit down table) and roll their eyes at you when you only want a beer and some fries.
In addition, The Publican has a wondrous assortment of purse hooks and shelves (built into the chair!) for all you heavy traveling lady drinkers to store your baggage. All this combined with an open kitchen and a deli-style meat slicer installed right at the end of the bar provide a great ambiance for enjoying The Publican’s knockout beer list and, in the words of Executive Chef Paul Kahan and Chef de Cuisine Brian Huston, “pristine product, simply prepared.”
I had a very hard time selecting which beers to order. My companion and I decided to share the New Holland Black Tulip Trippel Ale and Half Acre’s Long Thai Rainbow Rye (very reasonably priced at $5 each). The Black Tulip was smooth and sweet in all the right places, it coated my tongue with honey happiness. The Rainbow Rye was one of the best I have had of that style, and I have to hand it to Half Acre Beer Company. A bartender at Hopleaf tipped me off to this relatively new Chicago brewery. I’ve not had a bad beer from them yet, and their Daisy Cutter Pale Ale might be my #1 beer of Summer 2010.
We also split the frites with fried eggs – do not sleep on this, people!! Frites are perfectly prepared, required no seasonings OR KETCHUP (and I love me a ketchup). The combination sounds weird but tastes so, so right.
My brief encounter left me wanting more. I went back today for a few more rounds and some beer banter with the lovely bartendress. Please excuse typos as I indulged in a Bluebird Bitter (perfect pairing for the Hannahs’s Bretzel with Bavarian mustard) and The Czar (coming in at an impressive 11.5%). Get there early or make a reservation because this place gets busy, and don’t forget to visit the bathroom (just trust me on that one).