The Publican is for people passionate about pork. I’m one of those people.
First, a word about the place. Publican is situated in the heart of Chicago’s meat-packing district. Accordingly, the restaurant has a turn-of-the-century, butcher’s warehouse feel to it. (Okay, perhaps not the best way to describe it, but that’s how it felt to me.) High ceilings, subway tiles on the floor and walls, diner lights illuminating the sprawling place.
Our reservation was for 9:30. The place was jammed. We were escorted to a stand-up bar near the kitchen while they readied our table. After finishing an exceptional Manhattan (garnished with homemade maraschino cherries), my dining partners and I were seated at one of the place’s lengthy tables you’d imagine were standard in an English castle’s dining hall.
I started with a half-dozen Kumamoto oysters. They’re my favourites and often on the menu at Ottawa’s WBOH. How could I pass up the chance to have them here? And so, I did. Happily.
We also opted for an order of their in-house pork rinds. (What? It’s a bastion to all things porcine, after all.) They were… good. And not “NFL-Sunday-pig-out” good, but “delectable” good. Light, flavourful, crunchy. Heck, you’d hardly know they were fried pieces of Miss Piggy’s epidermis.
Since the menu was similarly titled towards small plates like Avec’s, my friend and I decided to share a few plates between us as our mains. And share we did: duck rillette (melt-in-your-mouth amazing); grilled sardines (rich and full of smoky flavour); pork belly (pure bliss).
To finish things off, I opted for a duo of cheeses. Raw cow’s and sheep’s. Equally delicious, and the perfect end to a sumptuous, protein-laded feast.