First Taste: The Publican

braised pork at The Publican

While The Publican specializes in pork, like this dish shown above, its grilled chicken is just as memorable.

Paul Kahan has been talking about opening about The Publican, his follow-up to Blackbird and Avec, for more than two years now, so there’s been a lot of talk. But I don’t remember hearing anything about chicken. Oysters, pork and beer, yes.

For the most part that’s what The Publican is: A place of worship for perfect mollusks, which give off the aroma of salty sea air. And for housemade sausages, like a plump boudin blanc with truffles and hash browns. And, of course, for beer (about a hundred varieties).

Yet what made my first meal at The Publican one of the best I’ve had this year was an uncommonly crisp and juicy grilled half chicken rubbed with espelette pepper and oregano. It helps that there’s pork on the plate, too—a sliced summer sausage whose robust and hearty flavor offsets the chicken’s sumptuousness. And the frites—thick, hot, crisp squares of potato that soak up the chicken’s juices—didn’t hurt either. It’s not a dish for those with a small appetite, especially if (like me) you supplement it with a crab boil, some fried sardines, and a couple goblets of Trappist ale. Still, I’ve never been one to be deterred by overconsumption. Mere hours after eating at The Publican, a friend of mine called to ask me where I thought she should hold her birthday party. I was on the couch by then, contently clutching my swollen stomach, and I didn’t hesitate for a second.

“I think I know just the place.”

The Publican 837 W. Fulton Market, Chicago (312-733-9555)

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