Fantastic morning in Chicago: The Publican, Northwestern Cutlery

This morning has been so relaxing. Truly, it is just a shockingly different pace when the kids are elsewhere. We lazed around in bed reading and enjoying coffee and then took a fantastic, long walk all around the city but heading northwest towards The Publican and a cooking supply store, Northwestern Cutlery, that we wanted to check out. It's a gorgeous though cold day, and I have been repeatedly reminded that although I truly enjoy visiting Chicago, there is no chance in the world I'd live here again. Too much cold!  Anyway, Northwestern Cutlery did not disappoint and we came away with some good finds including a massive amount of collagen casing for making sausages at home, a julienne peeler and several other goodies.

Then we headed to The Publican for brunch. I loved every single element of the restaurant's design and layout. What a great atmosphere, hip yet down-to-earth, energetic but you could have a conversation...everyone just seemed happy to be there. The booths had hinged doors on them so that when everyone was seated, you closed your little group off for some cute degree of privacy. The service was great. The bathrooms were superb. Seriously, look at this communal sink. Not only does this hasten the time in which the stalls become available, but I feel certain the handwashing rate increases dramatically when you've got this public arena in which it's obvious if you don't opt to clean up.

I ordered us 6 oysters to start, and they did not disappoint. T decided he only wanted two, so I feel I made out well.  Although there was a nice champagne vinegar-shallot mignonette on the side, I liked my bivalves best with just a squeeze of lemon. Mmm, mmm.

Then I chose the farro, beet, squash and farmers cheese salad and T opted for the pork schnitzel BLT. As he said, "wow, that's a lot of schnitzel. I'm definitely going to have to catch it with the bun top." Indeed. The Publican is a pork- and beer-centric place so his choice seemed a wise one. A good BLT is hard to beat, and The Publican's bacon did not disappoint. However, we both felt underwhelmed by the sandwich which was not, unfortunately, greater than the sum of its parts. The schnitzel took over and its breading lacked kick. It needed some lemon, or a hint of mustard or something. And while the garlic aioli was -and always is- a good touch, there wasn't enough of it. Something like an arugula pesto in concert with the aioli would have lifted this sandwich to greater and more flavorful heights. Too, there was no sauce, ketchup or otherwise, for the fries. In my opinion, this is the equivalent of serving cold bread at dinner: neither is good, both are inexcusably simple to avoid. I'm not a fan of ketchup in general, but fries were made to be dipped in it, so any place serving frites, especially good ones, should have both ketchup and a good aioli at the ready.

Lest you think otherwise, T did clean his plate.

Now I really grooved on my salad which was dressed with an orange-brown butter drizzle. Farmers cheese is massively underrated, and I always love farro. This was totally satisfying and is yet another dish I'm going to work up at home.

All in all, we loved Publican as much for its atmo as its commitment to happy pork and pleasure in eating. Cheers!