Coming to the plates and glasses of Wicker Park eaters and drinkers at Publican Anker beginning Wednesday: "a truly great wine list," "inspirational cooking," and a "mind-blowingly delicious" burger, Paul Kahan says. Sure, Kahan may be a little biased — he does co-own the company, after all — but seeing the success of the original The Publican, Avec, and Dove’s Luncheonette and the perpetually-packed Big Star on Anker’s same block, would you doubt the food and drink at the highly-anticipated Publican spinoff in the nexus of the neighborhood?
While it does partly share the same name as the original and is definitely a chip off the old block — or "Publican-esque," as Kahan puts it — there are a few differences. While the menu will change, chef de cuisine A.J. Walker — who spent the last five years at The Publican and Publican Quality Meats — brought only one food dish — the pork rinds — over from the Fulton Market original with the same preparation for the opening. The frites are now cut thin, the chicken is served with a "ranchovy dressing," the mussels now are cooked with seaweed. Although you’ll find plenty of meat and seafood, a main direction Publican Anker has taken, which echoes the evolution of the original, is towards vegetables. Whether served with offal, chicken drippings, cooked on the kitchen’s wood-burning grill or in their pure vegan glory, Publican Anker is dedicated to veg.
Another main difference here is the concept’s focus on being a neighborhood tavern. The two dishes Kahan are most excited about illuminate that focus: the burger and wings. The chicken wings are made with opal basil, burnt chili and yogurt; while the aforementioned pub burger, which Kahan says "people are flipping out over," is a specialty-ground five-ounce patty from Slagel Farms seasoned with porcini mushroom powder and herbs de Provence and topped with Publican exec chef Cosmo Goss’ version of McDonald’s special sauce, American cheese, caramelized onions, and PQM’s garlicky pickles.
And as a tavern does, drinking will be just as vital as eating— if not more so — at Anker. "We wanted to create a place where you can come have a drink and some snacks (or) come and have a full meal," Kahan says. "We think the beverage menu is super unique in that we’re trying to blur the line between beer and wine — it’s just fermented beverages." Wine director Bret Heiar has been "stockpiling older vintages of very affordable stuff," Kahan says, including small-market wineries that will run from $30 a bottle and $7 a glass. As previously reported, beer director Adam Vavrick has put together German, Belgian, craft, "crushable," and collaboration beers.
Kahan was asked, in a nutshell, what fans of the original Publican can expect at Publican Anker. "The idea is where The Publican has evolved to. It started as this super meat-focused restaurant and now the vegetable section is huge there and we do a lot of oily seafood and product that other restaurants don’t necessarily use," he says. "We’re cooking in the same vein here, (but) it’s a little more tavern-y, a little more neighborhood-y, the music will be a little louder...same inspirational cooking, same incredible sourcing of products, same fun."
Read the opening menus below.