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First Look: The Publican

Well it only took us five days after it opened, but we made it to the Publican last night -- and we can't wait to go back. The room is simple -- light woods, dozens of symmetrical globe lights dangling from the ceiling, communal tables, a few high tops for people waiting to sit (or who just want small plates), 12 uniform wood tap pulls on the bar and a wall lined with corral-like semi-private tables (where we sat). And the bathrooms were, dare we say, regal? Five separate rooms, each fit for a king, each with a custom made 10 feet tall door, each set up slightly differently from the others; there's a communal sink just outside for the rooms that don't have its own sink. Classic German and English touches throughout. Great design. Thomas Schlesser and Donnie Madia really outdid themselves this time.

And the food, while hardly fussy, was really the star. Paul Kahan told us he's been developing this menu for nearly eight months, working alongside chefs from their sister restaurants -- Koren Grieveson of avec, Mike Sheerin from Blackbird -- and of course Brian Huston, his partner in crime at the Publican. The flavor profile of the menu is so incredible that you just want to keep eating. Whether it was starting with a chef's selection of oysters (kumamoto, penn cover, coromandel) or nabbing the best frites in Chicago (topped with a poached egg no less) or diving into a dungeness crab boil that left your hands dripping with broth, each course was orgasmic. But then we got the two dishes that truly blew us away: the boudin blanc (a housemade pork and chicken sausage that came with roasted grapes, which was one of the most interesting, flavorful things we've ever tasted) and the grilled country (de-boned) ribs served alongside fresh seedless watermelon. Kahan and team obviously love food. And they're loving this new concept. Is there anything they touch that doesn't turn to gold?

The beer menu is beyond extensive and needs a translator since much of the list is Belgian. Fortunately the staff is very well versed and educated. And speaking of the staff, you won't find a group that's happier to be in a place. We chatted with Donnie Madia for a while and when we told him the thing we love about all their spots is they don't take themselves too seriously. We think he may have taken that the wrong way initially but the focus is on food they all love and just having a good time and that shows.

We're heading back there soon to get some shots of the room when it's empty so in case you don't get there for a bit, you at least know what to look forward to.


615 West Randolph Street, Chicago, IL 60661 (312) 377-2002 Visit Website


614 North 2nd Street, , PA 19123 (267) 324-5224 Visit Website