I took off "dieting" (but still eating gluten-free) yesterday to help celebrate Ernie's dad's birthday. We hosted his parents at my place with pre-dinner birthday treats, then headed down to Fulton Market to the Publican. I'd heard rave reviews from Christy who just took her boyfriend for his Birthday, Albert, and my co-worker April who says this is her favorite restaurant.
The seating style is like the German Beer Halls where there are communal tables in the center of the room. Along the wall are booths that seat four. They were similar to pig stalls with doors that shut you into the booth. Though unusual, it helps make the environment very intimate. The lighting is very decorative with rows and rows of large spheres hanging from the ceiling. I could pass on the large portraits of pigs on the walls.
The food style is intended for everyone to share, however, we each ordered our own dish with some side veggies. The food came out as it was prepared since they are supposed to be shared - though the portions didn't seem sized for sharing.
To start, Ernie and I had beats and pickles. The beats, recommended by April, were so tasty, very fresh and served with a big hunk of mild and soft goat cheese. The daily pickles were cauliflower, cucumber and carrots. I liked the taste of the cauliflower pickles best.
For dinner, I ordered scallops with maitake mushrooms and celery root. The serving was quite small though the rich creme made the dish rather filling. Ernie had the country chicken which was a pretty enormous serving - with summer sausage over a bed of fries. The fries soaked up flavor from the chicken making them very delicious. The chicken was perfectly prepared with just the right amount of herbs and spices.
Ernie's dad had the three ham platter. This was not what any of us expected. The ham was European Style thin sliced and served with peasant bread. The serving size was pretty small and probably intended for sharing rather than a personal meal. Ernie's mom ordered the halibut which looked very fresh but, again, the fillet was about half the portion of other restaurants.
On our way out, we checked out the bathroom which I was told was 'amazing' and 'extremely interesting.' The bathroom was what Ernie's dad calls "turn of the century old English style". The area was a 14' small square with 6 stalls: 3 for women and 3 for men. In the center of the square was a communal sink that looked more like a large stone bird bath with four spouts. To top off the experience, high-efficiency Dyson hand dryers were on either side of the square room. A juxtaposition of old and new.
Overall, the setting was unique with an old European influence and the food was flavorful , but be prepared to order several dishes to fit your appetite. The extensive drink list combined with the ambiance of the restaurant makes Publican also suitable for drinks and appetizers.
837 W. Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607