i've been to the publican once before for dinner which i enjoyed tremendously and praised about it for the next few days. my first time at publican was probably the first restaurant i've been with the concept of communal table. i was intrigued by their waiting tables which i thought was a awesome idea but what impressed me was their delicious food and great selection of beers. so i returned with great expectation for an end-of-summer brunch with xy. he has never been but i've been raving about this restaurant to him.
the publican is part of paul kahan's great chicago food empire that also boasts of blackbird, avec and big star. its decor is interesting - there are several artsy paintings of pigs adorning the walls.. most of my friends think they are ugly but i think they have their own uniqueness which gives the space character. the atmosphere feels like a english tavern with an old school feel.
there wasn't much of a wait since i made reservations. i was hoping that there were mussels appetizer on their brunch menu which in that case, i would have to work my persuasion skills on xy to share it with me but sadly no mussels! we both started out with freshly squeezed orange juice ($3) which was fresh (as promised...hehe) by the way. while we were waiting on our food, we were people watching - actually more like food watching just to assess what everyone else ordered.
biscuit and chorizo gravy | fried egg . fried oyster . braised kale ($15)
i have to admit - i've never had biscuits & gravy as a meal before. i guess i've had biscuits and gravy separately but never together but i think that's different. i expected a flaky biscuit but it turned out crumbly which is traditionally the way it should be so it could absorb more of the gravy. the fried oysters were fresh - kinda creamy inside encased in a crunchy outside, just like it should be. the gravy was delicious with big chunks of spicy chorizo where its richness is enhanced by the runny yolk of the fried egg. the braised kale which was very flavorful (traditional southern flavor) was probably my favorite part of the dish after the fried oysters because it gives a grounding point amidstall the richness.
all the flavors were great and combined beautifully but halfway through my meal, it gradually became too heavy and rich with each bite that i had to stop (much to my disappointment, because i did like my dish).
chicken fried steak | sunny side up eggs . cherry tomatoes . tomatillo salsa ($16)
xy's choice for brunch. it looked delicious but i didn't have a taste. however, xy did say he thought it was yummy and the fried steak was crispy and moist in the inside. and he also mentioned that the salsa went really well with the dish. after that brunch, he concurred he would return to publican for a second time.
the publican has met my expectation at brunch which i've enjoyed almost as much as my first dinner experience here. it's definitely a great restaurant that i would vote as one of my favorites in chicago. when i think of publican, i think of rich, hearty meals done with precision. and of course, those yummy mussels. :)
disclaimer this is written based on my personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others