Happy as a Ham | The Publican

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The beach was closed. A fog storm shrouds over the water. “Do Not Enter.” However, a cloudy beach wasn’t going to ruin my final day of vacation in Chicago. Jon and I unwaveringly stayed put. We laid our beach towel and proceeded to tan like two slabs of pork belly on a salamander, rendering until the fat melted off our bodies.

Eat, beach, sleep, repeat. After my meal at The Publican, I was convinced each time that I had morphed into a piece of ham. Portions are bigger in the Midwest. Small plates are the size of entrées, entrées are family size. I never had the capacity to greet any desserts.

We arrived for dinner service at The Publican. The communal tables were packed on a Monday night.

Me: “Everyone looks like they’re having a good time.”
Jon: “You say that about every restaurant that we go to.”

It’s my go to phrase before I have a meal at any great destination restaurant. I assume other people are having a good time because I’m having a good time. Here, I feel fantastic.

The Publican’s menu is proudly seafood/meatcentric. Sausages, pâté, offal, oysters, crudo, whole fish. Their vegetables are endless too. Scratch that, they do everything. They do everything so deliciously.

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We started off  with beef heart tartare and a plate of ham from Iowa. The texture of the heart is firm and resilient. Excellent. A plate of aged La Quercia Rossa ham served with peasant bread was delightfully subtle and buttery.

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Next, a coronation of seafood.

The octopus is a must start for this Publican offense. As the months fly by, the octopus is dressed in different seasons. About two weeks ago, the octopus was wearing cucumbers and radishes, celery and dill. I happily received an accompaniment of earthy pocha beans, crisp leeks and romesco. The octopus was gently soft and tender.

Then a plate of hamachi. The crudo is merged with tomatoes, watermelons, and a little hint of Serrano chiles. A taste of the summer season.

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Jon and I agreed the plate of dry aged duck was our least favorite of the night. The gaminess of the bird was paired with balsamic and grapes, a great combination. However, the grapes were a little bit early at the time and the duck was a bit dry. We took some of the duck home and scarfed it down with a cup of The Publican’s corn for breakfast the next day. No complaints.

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Lastly, we had to pay respects to the Publican Quality Meats shop and get a taste of their endeavors. The toulouse sausage was the right decision. The smoky sausage was grilled crisp and served under a bed of polenta. The sweet cherry tomatoes offered a reprieve when I began to feel meat-wasted.

The Publican stole my heart that night. Although I limped back to the Green line train in pain and anguish, envisioning an ominous warning of gout from the man above, I reveled in the joy of leaving one of the greatest restaurants in Chicago in gut-wrenching fashion. It’s hard to say no when you feel at home.

For my entire meal at The Publican: the publican, chicago on flickr


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