The Publican

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The PublicanThe Publican
103 Ratings
The PublicanThe Publican

Type: Bar, Eatery

837 W Fulton Market
Chicago, Illinois, 60607-1318
United States

(312) 733-9555 | map

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Added by rhoadsrage on 11-26-2008

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Ratings: 103 |  Reviews: 42
Photo of navband
3.25/5  rDev -28.7%

Photo of beerwolf77
3.35/5  rDev -26.5%
vibe: 1 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 3

One of our many stops while hanging in chi-city.

First off everyone in our group hated the atmosphere in this place. The long communal tables and the booths with doors on them. WTF? We joked it looked like some sort of brothel where people could get hand jobs while they eat. So weird. The high back chairs were obnoxiously high. The biggest kicker was having to stand and drink. Seriously? No option to sit unless we were eating. Seemed rather douchey.

The beer list was decent an well put together. We ended up ordering the house made gueuze and lambics. Both were pretty good considering the source.

We weren't there to eat but the menu looked like they had some great options.

Honestly I would only go back here to eat. Not as a beer destination. I'm sure this is where the high marks come from. Otherwise I just don't get it.

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Photo of vinny21bal
3.75/5  rDev -17.8%

Photo of SAEmick
3.8/5  rDev -16.7%

Photo of jrallen34
3.88/5  rDev -14.9%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4 | food: 4

I finally made it out to Publican, a Friday night for drinks and snacks. A typical West Loop joint, meaning modern looking, new and clean, wide open space with adjoined tables. Cool place for having dinner probably not exactly what I want out of a place for drinks. The booths are awesome though as they basically look you in with wooden doors like your in a horse stall...The beer list is organized pretty good, draught then countries and styles. About 10 draft and probably 50 or so bottles. The selection is pretty decent, a lot of base staples, some stuff I've not seen before. Fluxus on tap is nice. The service was decent, talked to 2 people new basic beer stuff and things about the beers available, suggestions were not spot on...The snacks we had were good, nothing special though. The fries were very disappointing, guess I was expecting something Belgianesque. It was not crowded at all for Friday, making me wonder why its impossible to get reservations. Way too expensive for the beer and good.

A cool place to go, would go here for dinner for a special occasion because they have decent beer but I wouldn't come back to just drink. Paramount room is close enough, if downtown head there for cheaper beer with similar quality.

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Photo of WOTO97
3.88/5  rDev -14.9%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 3.5 | food: 4

First off, the quality of the food is very high. The focus is pork, oysters, and beer. The first two categories are well-represented. The food is designed to be shared at the table; no traditional entrees. The food, generally, is considerably more upscale traditional pub fare.

The beer list is okay. Without a doubt it contains some very great beers. Nonetheless, The Publican has made a point of advertising how much time they spend on integrating the food and beer menus, but, based on this, the beer menus definitely lacks any cohesiveness. Some of the rare beers that made an appearance on the list seemed to be there to be there and not for the purpose of complementing the food.

Still, if you are looking to spend a nice night out with friends and drop some money, you could do much worse than The Publican.

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Photo of sholland119
3.96/5  rDev -13.2%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4.25 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4.25 | food: 4

Yeah, I guess I am going to have to be an outlier on this one. Maybe we were there too early in the day and the deadness of the place just got to me. Maybe the douchey service or the fact that in an empty restaurant they sat us right next to the only people who were sitting down.

Cool location, loved shopping in the related store down the street. Great beer list, good food, cold and unwelcoming. I was happier at Haymarket up the street. Oh, well.


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Photo of Yetiman420
4.09/5  rDev -10.3%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4

I should have known what I was getting in to when I saw The Publican in Food & Wine magazine, a Zagat's feature, and the WHERE magazine in my Chicago hotel room. I should have known better than to show up at 9:30 on a Saturday night. Would have, should have, could have.

We drove five hours from Cincinnati to Chicago for a weekend of good beer and food. The Publican made its way to the top of our list. Not much information in BA or online and an untimely, day-after response from RadioFlyer who was posting The Publican's beer list the prior week to regional forums...

"Not sure if you were here this weekend, or if its next, but the best thing to do is go as early as you can on a weekend. We just started taking reservations so this may be of help, but to be honest we get so crowed on the weekends. If it were me I would go as early as 4:30 get a beer and snack, then at 5:30 the full menu is available. Monday through Wednesday is normally safe and Sundays are always fun, but on sundays we have a prefixed family style menu. Unfortunately our bar seating is small and maybe not ideal, if you'd like more private dining ask for a booth or a separate table for two. if your fine with communal dining ask to be seated at one of the long tables. Hope this help cheers and happy holidays"

The reservation policy hit us hard. Website says no reservations except Sunday. We got shut out. Should have went with my gut and arrived early - like when they opened. The staff handled our contained displeasure well. Someone even got the chef to write out the Sunday prix fixe menu.

I'm dismissing all of this as growing pains. I'm extremely excited to see this type of beer-forward movement. It's on our list for dinner during our next biannual visit to the city.

Located in what I believe to be the (old) stockyard area of Chicago. Very much like the meatpacking district in Manhattan. Not much from the outside except cabs and cars coming and going. A block or two to the east is major, upscale residential development. Inside is a wide open, light-colored space crowded and very noisy. The Allman Brother's and Gratfeul Dead as house music? Listen close. Nice.

We stopped the Friday night before at Flossmoor which tapped Surly Darkness on Thursday. They were out when we arrived around 6. The Publican tapped the same thing earlier in the week and it was still flowing. I mention this because the clientele, and the restaurant for that matter, is more food than beer. Smartly-dressed, successful professionals dominated the crowd on this Saturday evening. The people and place are atypical of the hundreds of BA-reviewed establishments I've visited. In my book, this is a good thing. Just know what you're getting in to. Also keep in mind the bar area is comprised of standing stations with no seats.

On with the beer. The beer menu is categorized by draught, trappist Belgium, micro Belgium, abbey style Belgium, methode champenoise, lambics, Flemish red/bruin, saisons Wallonia, biere de garde france, german, Denmark, finnish, Norwegian, british isles, Swedish, and American. Ninety beers in all.

They provide complete, formal descriptions of the beer which I got a kick out of.

Brasserie de Rochefort [Abbey de Notre-Dame de Saint-Remy], Rochefort, Belgium
Trappist Rochefort 8 [11.2 oz] - 9.20% - $13

Might someone be confusing their Rochefort 8's? How did the majority handle this? It seemed as if most were drinking the Trappist varieties. I would have preferred less focus on formal descriptions and more guidance with characteristics and pairings. I also like books with color pictures.

Monchshof Schwarzbier - $5
Alpha King Pale Ale - $5
Alpha Klaus Xmas Porter - $6
De Koninck, Brouwerij De Koninck NV - $6
Matilda - $7
Gulden Draak - $7
Surly Darkness - $7
Scaldis De Noel - $7
Wiesen Edel-Weisse - $8
Saison Claussenii - $9
Cidre Bouche Brut Dupont - $10
Kriekbier - $10

I had the Surly which was about 10 oz.

American bottle varieties from Avery, Great Lakes, Founders, North Coast, Three Floyds, Two Brothers, Ommegang, Goose Island, New Holland, Great Divide, and two of my favorites - Jolly Pumpkin and Allagash.

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Photo of cryptichead
4.1/5  rDev -10.1%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4.25

Photo of MarcatGSB
4.14/5  rDev -9.2%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 4.25 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4.25 | food: 5

This is an extremely conflicting review for me to write...This is Beer Advocate, right? Okay I'll do my best.

They open at 3:30...they serve a limited afternoon menu until 5:30. We had a reservation at 5:30, and showed up around 4:30, and were promptly sat at the table where our reservation had been situated for later that evening.
The tap list consists of 10 to 12 options, ranging from easy drinking German Pils to fine American Craft offerings, and even a house blended Lambic (which stated it was from Lindeman's). We started with a Rueze from the Bruery. A beer I had been wanting to try, but since we don't get their stuff in Michigan, I was very excited to see it.
The afternoon menu consists of 8 to 12 Oyster options, quite a few different cheeses, some cured meats, a few salads, and a half chicken. We started with the Chef's Choice Oysters that were absolutely fantastic. They gave us two of each, totaling 12 Oysters (the cost was $30, so just under $3 an Oyster, fair price IMO). Since they had about 12 Oysters on the menu, we decided to go back for round 2, and try the other 6 that we did not get on the first platter. And the chef was more than happy to do that for us. They were all wonderful.

By this time, it was 5:30, and the full menu was available. We stuck with the draft list (which I'll get to later), and got a glass of the house Lambic. Which turned out to be absolutely delicious. We both enjoyed it more than the Rueze.
The dinner menu is vast. Lots of really good looking options. We did some family style dining, and went with a couple different things. We had some baked sweet potatoes that were absolutely delicious, as well as some kale gnocchi. The kale wasn't as present as I would have liked it to be, but the gnocchi was to die for. Absolutely amazing. For entrees we went with dry aged duck breast and beef heart tartar. Both of the entrees matched the apps, very well presented, and tasty. An amazing dining experience food wise. With that said...

We were sat on the first table when you walk in the door. The only occupied table at 4:30. Probably the worst table in the house, honestly. I called for a reservation 3 months ago, because I know it's extremely difficult to get into the Publican. Every time someone opened up the door, we got a blast of cold air, and it was rather uncomfortable for us.
The server wasn't the friendliest girl in the world. She was pleasant enough, but she had this snottiness to her that just rubbed me the wrong way. I'm a religious 20% tipper, and unfortunately she walked away with just over 15%...
The beer list is...hmm. The tap list is affordable, yes. But as far as the Publican being a beer destination, I'd have to say absolutely not. Yes, they had Bourbon County Coffee on the list, but for $18 a bottle? You gotta be kidding me. Yeah they had Sobre Humano from JP (and there isn't alot of that left around), but for $45 a bottle? No way. The prices were just way too high.
Taking everything into account, this is a really nice stop. The food is fantastic, and priced very well for what you get. The service could have been better. The beer list is impressive but overpriced.
It's nice to have such a high quality dinner with great beer options available. I don't understand the idea that if you are going to enjoy such a treat, you need to be gouged for it. I'm guessing people pay for the bottles, or else they wouldn't carry the selection they do, or they wouldn't charge as much. The restaurant seems to be very busy, so they don't need my help. I just don't agree with their practice.

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Photo of misternebbie
4.14/5  rDev -9.2%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.25 | service: 4 | selection: 4.25 | food: 4

Photo of pagriley
4.15/5  rDev -9%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4 | food: 4

just okay. beer menu was interesting, but nothing really exciting, food was sub-par.

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Photo of StoutSnob40
4.16/5  rDev -8.8%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4.25 | food: 4.5

Photo of shadytony
4.2/5  rDev -7.9%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 3 | selection: 4 | food: 5

The atmosphere of this place is awesome. Very "beer hall" and the chefs employ a "head to tail" philosophy (cooking and serving every part of the animals on the menu - usually pig). You will be hard pressed to find a better selection of food at any craft beer establishment in Chicago (especially if you are a pork lover). The beer selection is typically solid but service can be spotty, especially if you are standing at one of the community tables by the bar. I gave selection a solid "4". I would recommend having a reservation and getting a table if you plan on being there for a while. The selection is usually awesome (e.g. I visited for a tapping of K.B.S. which lasted until long after I left). This place may not be for everyone as it leans very much toward a 'high end' dinner spot (this is not a casual bar) and can be very crowded on evenings and weekends.

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Photo of GRG1313
4.25/5  rDev -6.8%

Photo of spycow
4.25/5  rDev -6.8%

Photo of larbush
4.25/5  rDev -6.8%

Photo of teledeluxe
4.25/5  rDev -6.8%

Photo of kylehay2004
4.36/5  rDev -4.4%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5

Photo of malcontent
4.38/5  rDev -3.9%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4 | food: 5

Ah, Publican. What's left to say? Of Paul Kahn's places this is neck-and-neck with Avec (hey, that rhymed!) for me.

The room is a long, family style (read: shared tables) set up which has become Kahn's go-to lately. There are a smattering of tall, standing-only tables in the middle of the room for the a)hardy diners or b)folks who only intend to have a beer or two and munch on some snacks. The kitchen is exposed, which seems to be de rigeur these days but a move that is right in line with the open layout of the dining room. Side note: the restrooms are bizarrely fun. Yes, that's an odd thing to write in a review but go there and see if you don't agree.

The service is excellent with an impressive command of multitasking considering the size of the place. The knowledge of the menu is outstanding and only once did I have a server with just an OK grasp of the beer menu.

The beer menu, while constantly rotating, still places a heavy emphasis on the local. There have been some who quibbled with the lack of cohesion for the beer selection but I think this has far more to do with making sure each of the myriad food items has at least one ideal pairing.

Yes, it's a beer site but let's not kid ourselves, Publican is a food establishment and this is where it should receive most of its attention. I've had nearly everything on the menu over my visits (although this is an evolving seasonal menu) and standouts include the sweetbreads with pecans and pink lady apples, the spicy pork rinds, the selection of pickles (always different), crudee of fluke and a shockingly simple heirloom tomato salad.

If you're a beerhound with only semi-adventurous food tastes this might not be the place for you. If you worship at the altar of food porn this is a must.

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Photo of barleywin
4.38/5  rDev -3.9%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4 | food: 4.5

Photo of Monkeyknife
4.39/5  rDev -3.7%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.25 | service: 4.25 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4.75

Photo of RayYanks23
4.4/5  rDev -3.5%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 5 | selection: 4 | food: 4

The first place we went to, based mostly on BA reviews. It was a short walk off of the metro stop. Definitely a fancier place, the food was not your basic bar grub. The beer list was excellent! They were promoting their Zephyr collaboration with Lagunitas and Big Star.

The wait staff was excellent and very helpful in going over my bar list for the rest of out trip. The one draw back of this particular bar is that you will definitely need to cab it out of there because it is not that close to anything else, but I would recommend stopping in.

Don't expect to do hot wings and burgers...we ended up with a cheese and mixed ham plate, but the beer prevails and I am glad I stopped in. We went to the Map Room next and were very happy there for the rest of the night...

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Photo of Barnoloid
4.41/5  rDev -3.3%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.25 | food: 4.75

First class food here at The Publican - this is somewhere for meat lovers, as you might expect from the name. Tucked away on a slightly less busy part of the booming West Loop neighborhood. Excellent beer offerings, that often provide a great balance to the very extensive food choices. Their drink menu changes often and is picked to reflect the menu, though some standbys such as their 'house' lambic tend to remain. Consistently top class.

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Photo of Florida9
4.43/5  rDev -2.9%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4.5

The Publican reminds me of a modernist's interpretation of the great hall in Beowulf. The mood is lively and festive, with a good mix of foodies, beer lovers, and the trendy. The space itself is nothing more than a rectangle of a room, with large communal tables in the middle, boxed-in booths to the side and a gathering on two-tops near the front. Tall, stoic, boxy timber chairs sit with their wooden table counterparts. Earthen tones and wood dominate the structure, while globe lights hang from the ceiling in compact, orderly rows.

More impressive than the room itself is the beer list. There are 8 or so taps, about 10 times as bottles, and a cask ale, all representing a fine mix of the local (2Brothers, FFF, Surly) and the not so local (Germans, Belgians, French farmhouse). These are all quality beers and while there may be some offerings which are little more commercial than others, I spotted some true rarities and the menu even listed a bottle of New Glarus. For the most part prices are reasonable (between $5-$7 for a draft), but some of the prices were exorbitant (JP Bam for $23, and FFF Behemoth for $36!).

The food is retrospective, with a focus on old-school charcuterie, shellfish, and pickles. Simply put, the food is excellent, though I did at times feel it was somewhat redundant and lacking in creativity. For example, we ordered both the charcuterie plate and the potee, which turned out to be very similar dishes, even down to the addition of gherkins in both. However, since the food itself was so damn good, its hard to complain when you're getting more of a goof thing.

My only qualm with Publican would be the service, and even that was very good. However, my issue stemmed from my server being spread among too many tables, resulting in me having to continually ask for items, most notably beer, which I had to request on three separate occasions during my meal. Maybe if the restaurant itself added another server or two during busy nights, they could head off this inconvenience. Otherwise I will say my server exhibited quite the beer knowledge, was overtly friendly, and, when he was available to do so, attended to our needs without complaint.

Prices are not cheap, but in consideration for the quality of both the beer and food, I still felt they were very reasonable.

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The Publican in Chicago, IL
Place rating: 4.56 out of 5 with 103 ratings