Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Publican

"Gimme oysters and beer for dinner every day of the year and I'll be fine", Tin Cup Chalice, Jimmy Buffett, 1974

This past Saturday evening, Mrs. Hackknife and I joined a number of her coworkers/spouses for a fun evening at The Publican, a self-described "beer/pork/shellfish" emporium located on a once-desolate, now-heating up stretch of Fulton Market Street (especially with the pending arrival of Grant Achatz's new restaurant/bar a few doors down) on the Near North Side. This was our 3rd visit here since it first opened in early 2009 and we have yet to encounter a bad plate of food; in fact, we were so impressed after our first trip that we jointly decided, should we ever opt to practice restaurant monogamy (unlikely as that seems), The Publican would be a strong candidate for our eternal dining affections.

Since we had a relatively large group, we ordered a bunch of dishes for everyone to share, including a platter of 6 West Coast/6 East Coast oysters (not exactly being an oyster connoisseur, I couldn't discern much difference between the two I ate, although they were both delicious), fried sardines, a Catalan fish stew (it could have used more broth, perhaps the only slight misstep of the night), La Quercia cured ham (from Iowa), a paper cone of spicy pork rinds, a potted rillette (basically leftover pork pieces mixed with fat and cooled), pork belly, a whole roasted chicken with frites, and (whew) a couple of vegetable sides, including brussels sprouts and roasted squash. As you can imagine, this was a sizable amount of nosh, made more difficult by the fact that I had foolishly stuffed my face at Cousin Bobby and Gwen's housewarming party before we had even arrived, leaving me in an uncomfortable position of distended gluttony by the time the last dish emerged from the kitchen. I was only able to consume a single beer (Blanche de Bruxelles, a witbier from Brasserie Lefebvre in Belgium) during the whole meal, although Mrs. Hackknife let me sample one of her Two Brothers Heavy Handed IPA (she had 3 of these altogether, emptying out the restaurant's remaining stash).

There are still several items on the menu that I'm itching to try (some of the more exotic offerings that don't really play well in a group setting, such as blood sausage and sweetbreads), so a return visit is inevitable.

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