While you’ll encounter plenty of traditional German beer halls in Chicago, The Publican stands apart from the crowd for all the best reasons. For one thing, this popular West Loop gastropub skips the standard cuckoo clocks and Black Forest regalia for an elegant interior with modern accents, such as its prominent oversized light fixtures that give the room a warm, welcoming glow. For another, it serves chef-driven pork and seafood dishes that rise above the standard pretzel and schnitzel offerings of many German spots. Add to that a well-curated list of craft beers and you’ve got a perfect spot for your next casual gathering with friends.
If you’re only getting together for light bites and a beer, head to one of the tavern tables located in the center of the dining room. Shareable plates like spicy house-made pork rinds, frites topped with a sunny side egg, and an aged ham flight (that’s right: a flight of ham) are a wonderful complement to brews from Germany, Austria, Belgium, and the good old USA.
If your group would rather take advantage of the full-on dining experience, though, settle in at one of Publican’s lively communal tables, located near the raw bar and front of dining room. There, you can indulge in the grand seafood collection, a three-tier tower filled with chilled oysters, clams, shrimp, lobster, and other briny delicacies. You’ll need to make reservations for that one 48 hours in advance, but it’s worth it. And that’s just an appetizer. Once it’s gone, you can indulge in specialties such as the Cajun sausage, lamb belly, and grilled rabbit–one of the menu’s unlikeliest winners. They’re all accompanied by fresh, seasonal veggies, so you’ll feel like you’re eating a balanced meal.
Finally, if you and your pals are looking for a little privacy so you can catch up on all the latest news without distractions, you can reserve one of the private booths which come equipped with doors reminiscent of an Irish pub snug. The most coveted seats in the house hold up to six people, and even though they’re super roomy, they’ll never contain your group’s energy.
Photo by Edsel Little