The Publican

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The PublicanThe Publican
104 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: 104 |  Reviews: 42
Photo of emerge077
4.5/5  rDev -1.3%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 5

Made a point to visit over the weekend, at 3:30 when they opened. The beer director is BA RadioFlyer, and he was there to talk beer with us the whole time. He was an encyclopedia of beer knowledge (also an avid homebrewer), and shared samples with us, which was fun. The main draw for me were the exclusive Goose Island "experimental" specialties, such as Madame Rose, Matilda Framboise, and various Saisons using single Brett strains. Service was very prompt, helpful, and sincere. They even offered complimentary still or sparking bottled water. Be advised though, it's is a high-end establishment...reservations recommended for dinner.

The beer list is very well designed (available online), and organized into the following sections: Draught, Trappist, Belgian-micro, Abbey Style, Methode Champenoise, Lambics (all traditional), Flemish Red/Bruin, Saison, Biere de Garde, German, Danmark, Norwegian, Finnish, British Isles, Swedish, and American. Drafts rotate fairly often, currently the highlights were Matilda Framboise, Hopsinjoor, Flossmoor Pullman Brown, and Cantillon Lou Pepe Kriek. Drafts ranged from $5-9, and bottles were $5 for Avery IPA, up to $50 for Deus and Lou Pepe Framboise. The list was eclectic and varied, but seemed to focus most on Belgian Saison/Lambic/Biere de garde. I was happy to see Jolly Pumpkin offered here, and look forward to the beer dinner planned for May (edit: never happened).

We ordered off the "snacks" menu (available from 3:30-5:30), and not from the full dinner menu. Spicy pork rinds, frites with aioli, a trio of aged hams, and L'Etivaz, a Swiss Gruyere style cheese. The frites were a standout paired with the beer, cooked in beef tallow, and my favorite in the city. The menu was a perfect compliment to the beer, sort of high-end "deli/junk food" if you will. My favorite ham was la quercia rossa, the sample trio was $18...if you get a reservation for dinner here, expect it to be in the "$$$-$" range. Everything on the small menu was under $20, with the exception of the chef's selection of a dozen oysters ($30). I'm planning a return visit to try the mussels steamed in Cuvée René.

Atmosphere was clean and modern, lots of brass and wood, with shades of brown everywhere, even the staff's coats. The bar was low (with seats), with uniform wooden tap handles towering above. Taps were identified by small dangling engraved brass medallions. An army of globe lanterns above cast a soft light as the last bit of daylight ebbed from the front windows. There were giant illustrated canvas prints of equally giant hogs on the walls. It was an ultramodern shrine to the other white meat...

Edit: After returning for dinner last night, i'd put the food score at 5. We shared the suckling pig and sweetbreads dishes, which were worthwhile and then some. The Kumamoto oyster was a bit gritty with sand or shell pieces, otherwise everything was flawless. Right up to the pigpen corral tables which were surprisingly un-claustrophobic. Oh yeah... and Older Viscosity on tap :)

2011: After a half dozen visits, Publican always impresses. Whether it's just drinks at the bar, brunch, or dinner. They have earned their spot as an innovator in the local dining/beer scene.

A side note, the private "stockyard stall" tables are inspired by the Fulton Market location, historically one of Chicago's last meatpacking districts for the better part of a century. Also inspired by the "snugs" of european taverns. More info:

2012: Drafts still start out at $5 (Zombie Dust), pretty affordable, yes some bottles are expensive, that's the standard at any nice restaurant in town unfortunately... They also do a house lambic doux blend that is occasionally available.

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

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 Redrover
4.68/5  rDev +2.6%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 5

8-5-10 Update
I have been back several times. It has been consistently great (food & beer) and everyone I have taken here loves it. You have got to check it out!

Original Review 4-30-10

All I can say is WOW. This is a great place and I really hope they have a long and successful run.

Located the in the Fulton Meat packing district, there is plenty of on-street parking or you would take the Halsted Street bus and make the short walk over. Note that when we left there were plenty of taxis.

As you enter the vestibule, the hostess station & restaurant are to your left. The interesting bathrooms are to your right. Note that they bathrooms do not have sinks, but there is a very unique community sink located right outside the bathroom doors.

One of the neat aspects of the Publican is the large communal tables. While there are a few small tables, and few tables where your stand, the odds are that you will be sitting next to someone you don't know. This is great though as the atmosphere is so friendly it really lends itself to conversation. Speaking of conversation, the only downside of this place is the steady roar of noise. I think they have bit to much wood and should get some damping material on the floor or walls. I loved the oil paintings of the pigs!

The beer list is expansive and well thought out. Big emphasis on beers from Belgium and Belgian inspired US & Canadian beers. Note that they have some exclusive options from Goose Island. Prices range from a reasonable $5 for a Jolly Pumpkin & Goose Island to all the way up to $70 for some rare large bottles. The wine list is impressive, but I would say 80% of the patrons are drinking beer.

The food is fantastic. They emphasis is on pork but they also offer good fish & seafood choices. I've been told that they get a whole organic pig every Friday and that this is what they use the entire week.

We started with the spicy homemade pork rinds and then had the three-ham sampler platter. I liked they way they brought out the entrees one at time so we could share. We had the smelt, a nice salmon, fantastic chicken and some of the best pork ribs I've ever had. Desert was waffles.

The tab for four with tip was $260. $65 per person is cheap considering the quality of the food, the excellent service and really great beers.

Do yourself a favor and make tracks to this wonderful restaurant/bar.

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

Photo of dirtylou
4.75/5  rDev +4.2%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 5

The Publcian.

To say I had been anxiously awaiting my Friday night reservations (booked 4 weeks in advance) would be one of the understatements of the year - i could barely contain my intrigue.

when they say it's located in the meatpacking district, thats not just some cute city rhetoric about an old reformed district. its literally in a meatpacking district. we walked from the loop, past the chocolate factory, under the interstate and through some crummy streets. Cabs were waiting when we left fortunately.

we rolled in at around 7:30 and left no earlier than 11. This place was absolutely buzzing - no wonder this was the new restaurant of the year in Chicago and is generating tons of national attention.

the interior is warehouse-style with thoughtful lighting, family style tables, boxcar style tables, and lots of bar space that is rotated as possible.

the beer list is one long page with about 8 taps and a bunch of bottles. there is nothing even close to pedestrian on this list - bottles of cantillon, obscure french and belgians, old rasputin xxi, plenty of lambics/geuze. Markups seemed reasonable given the quality and attention given to beer. impossible to not drink well here. it should be noted that this is not a bar. dont plan on coming here on a busy night and not eating - you wont even get in the door.

all that said, this place is about the of the most incredible restaurants i have ever eaten at - i didnt want to leave. This place pays homage to the pig like no other - oh and shellfish too. Started with chef's samplers of oysters and aged hams, moved into some pork skins, some mussels, and 2 FANTASTIC entrees (pork shoulder with clams and chorizo, sweetbreads with a lobster cream sauce).

service was slow but people here are forced to know their menu. our $150 2-person bill was reduced to approximately $100 after receiving some of the mentioned items for free. i couldnt have cared less - i wanted a 3 hour dinner and thats what i got.

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Photo of GRG1313
4.25/5  rDev -6.8%

Photo of Canada_Dan
4.45/5  rDev -2.4%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.25 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4.75

Photo of spointon
4.75/5  rDev +4.2%

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

Photo of spycow
4.25/5  rDev -6.8%

Photo of Eman17
4.23/5  rDev -7.2%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 3.5 | food: 4.25

Photo of BeerOps
4.46/5  rDev -2.2%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.75 | selection: 4 | food: 4.75

Photo of Kurmaraja
4.44/5  rDev -2.6%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.25 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4.5

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 PhillyStyle
4.5/5  rDev -1.3%

Photo of jophish17
4.5/5  rDev -1.3%

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 ArkyVaughan
4.65/5  rDev +2%
vibe: 4.75 | quality: 4.75 | service: 4.75 | selection: 4.25 | food: 5

This place is tremendous. The European-style beer hall vibe is great and the food is really excellent. Tap and bottle list is not super-extensive, but what is on there is great. If you are in Chicago, don't miss dinner at the Publican.

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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 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 pat61
4.9/5  rDev +7.5%

The Publican offers rustic food raised to a new level of elegance and it is perfectly matched for their marvelous beer selection. The beer list covers three columns over one side of a tabloid size sheet. The 12 tap draft list mixes interesting local and regional craft brews with some imported selections I have not seen on tap anywhere else. The bottled list includes top Chicago and American craft beers, a handful of selections from Germany, the UK, Sweden and France and then a column of Belgian selections. My only complaint - inside when the place is full it can get so loud you can barely talk to the person sitting next to you. The food and drink are great!

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Photo of WoostaBia
5/5  rDev +9.6%

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The Publican in Chicago, IL
Place rating: 4.56 out of 5 with 104 ratings