Thursday, July 7, 2011
Chicago Brunch Bets: The Publican
Having only one Sunday in Chicago meant that MW and I had to be especially discriminating when selecting our sole brunch destination. Fortunately for us, the decision turned out to be quite simple, as The Publican looked too good to pass up. Specializing in specialty suds, heirloom pork and sustainable seafood, Paul Kahan's take on an American bistro seemed like the perfect place to nurse our hangovers and fill our bellies. Of course, the fact that the restaurant accepts brunch reservations didn't hurt either, but ultimately, the food here is the main attraction and well worth the wait, even without one.
Our cab dropped us off amid a line of hungry people milling about on their smart phones until their names were called. Already having a reservation, we were immediately ushered into the dining room to a standing area as our table was being cleared. The dining room was quite large with a large wooden communal table on one side and a series of private tables on the other. A large bar wrapped along the open kitchen and the ceiling was covered in large fishbowl looking lights.
Naturally, we started by ordering a few Bloody Marys which were made with Tito's Vodka, Publican Mix and House-Made Celery Bitters. Strong and spicy, these were exceptional and the perfect way to start any brunch. Even better was the fact that each came with a beer accompaniment. MW chose the Krankshaft Kölsch (Metropolitan Brewing, Chicago, IL), while I had the Old #38 Stout (North Coast Brewing Co., Fort Bragg, CA). Additionally, we ordered two Intelligentsia coffees.
Eying the neighboring table's food, MW ordered the Country Ham Schnitzel with Fried Eggs and Piperade. Cut thin and fried like a traditional schnitzel, the ham's robust flavor was just about perfect with the crisp exterior. The eggs had been cooked perfectly, runny yolks still in tact, and when combined with the sweet and sour piperade, was excellent with the schnitzel.
Especially fond of this soft shell crabs, there was little doubt that I would order the Soft Shell Crab Sandwich with Roasted Tomato Remoulade, Red Onions and Fingerling Potatoes. While not quite as impressive as Noah's six crab BLT, this sandwich was certainly no slouch. The crab had been expertly fried which was cut by the sharp tomato remoulade and pickled red onions.
But as good as our main dishes were, the sides easily stole the show. First was the bacon. I know, bacon is a rather ubiquitous brunch staple, but its how The Publican prepares theirs which makes it special. The Maple Syrup-Braised Publican Bacon was mind-blowingly good. Cut nice and thick, the bacon was braised in maple syrup which imparted a sweetness that married beautifully with the smokey cured pork belly.
The other standout was the restaurant's Hash Browns. Instead of a sloppy pile of undercooked potatoes, was a golden puck of deep fried potato goodness. Better than the version at Prime Meats, this was the best version of rösti I've had outside Switzerland. Sporting a crunchy exterior which yielded a creamy interior, this dish was about the closest thing to potato bliss that I've encountered.
Stuffed, we walked to our next destination in a half-assed attempt to clear a little room for dinner. Suffice it to say, not only was this one of our favorite meals of the vacation, but it just may have been the best brunch we've eaten all year. Based on this meal alone, The Publican will definitely be on our shortlist of restaurants to revisit anytime we're back in Chicago.
845 W Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607
To see all the pictures from this meal click HERE.