After our large, last-minute party was met with worry by the hostess, we were shifted to the bar tables smack dab in the center of the restaurant. Massive communal tables are organized in a U shape around these, with booths like livestock corrals with lockable doors lining up along the outside walls. Just as we tucked into the 75+ beer list, the wait abruptly ended and we had our table and our hallowed pork rinds.
Like Avec, Publican's hearty dishes are small and served family-style. Unlike Avec, Publican has just begun accepting reservations on OpenTable, assuring that the table next to ours, a bachelorette party (seriously, why here?), had a full compliment of 12 giggling girls. Moving on to the actual food, we dabbled in the Fuji apple salad and quickly advanced into no-turning-back territory with veal brains, schnitzel sweetbreads and steak tartare. Other than these, the focus is no doubt on the all-mighty pig; the menu boasts pork cheek, pork shank, pork belly, pork ears, pork ribs, pulled pork, a pork terrine and the aforementioned pork rinds.
Suffering from too much choice among the beers, we closed the place and headed out into Chicago's negative temperatures, our stomachs full of the stomachs of other animals. All in all, The Publican is one hell of an exercise in throwback carnivory. Try the tripe.