Brunch! I knew Chicago was a pretty great brunch city, so I was excited for the Sunday morning of my trip. Miami has some decent breakfast and brunch places, but the brunch culture just isn’t there like it is in Portland, Chicago, New York, etc.
There were a few brunch places that came up in my gluten-free search, including Wilde’s (went there for dinner two nights before) and Tweet. I was staying in the Gold Coast with a friend and both Wilde’s and Tweet are a bit farther north, so my friend suggested something closer. For dinner the night before she had suggested the Publican in the West Loop, which she had heard a lot about. I was able to convince her to do Wildfire instead (as it has a crazy gluten-free menu) and so our “compromise” (I did so willingly and excitedly though) was the Publican for Sunday brunch. A little bit later I realized the Publican is just across the street from Publican Quality Meats (makes perfect sense, but I hadn’t remembered the full name of Publican Quality Meats). Publican Quality Meats had come up on a list I stumbled upon of the 11 Hottest Ice Cream Shops in the country. So ice cream after brunch was most likely in our future.
We Uber’d over to the West Loop, which is a neighborhood I haven’t spent a lot of time in on earlier Chicago trips. It used to be a lot factories that have been turned into condos and restaurants. Apparently a lot of tech firms are moving in to offices there too. I love the architecture of repurposed old brick factories and it reminded me a lot of the Pearl District in Portland. The Publican is in such a building and has the modern, industrial look inside. We asked for a table outside on a small fenced off patio from the street. It was a beautiful day and I was very excited to brunch outside!
The Publican menu for brunch has some breakfast items that have seemed to stay consistent when I’ve looked at the menu at different times, but then also has some dishes with a range of influences that seems to change. When we visited something that stuck out was the tortilla Espanola. The dinner menu similarly has some Spanish influences, as well as some Asian influences and what looks like a wide range of delectable vegetable and meat options. The current brunch menu when I took a look online seems to have some German influences with pork schnitzel and bratwurst. Whether you’re going for brunch or dinner I’m pretty sure you can expect quality vegetables and meats with some American staples and international influences (Spanish, Asian, and German seeming to be the most common I’ve seen on different menus). Since the menu has seemed to change just in the last couple weeks I’m betting you can expect the menu to also reflect what vegetables are maybe in-season and high quality, plus what meats they’ve developed across the street at Publican Quality Meats.
I wasn’t overlooking the more nontraditional items (when it comes to breakfast food) on the menu, but since it was brunch I started by looking at the breakfast stuff. Since the Publican is related to the meat shop, I thought the maple syrup braised Publican bacon was a good way to go (and bacon is never a bad decision). I also can’t say no to hash browns at any time of day (especially the last couple years since breakfast potatoes are so prevalent in Miami). I rounded out my meal by choosing the tortilla Espanola from the more nontraditional breakfast items. I’m a big fan of the tortilla Espanola from my Spanish tapas experiences in Miami. My friend also went for the tortilla Espanola when I gave her the description (layers of eggs and potatoes kind of similar to a quiche).
It was clear I made some great decisions on all three when they came out. The Publican bacon was quite thick and hearty (similar to pork belly). This was some high quality meat (no pun intended with the name of the meat shop). Probably my favorite part? The hash browns were so crispy and golden and buttery! I have been somewhat deprived of good hash browns in Miami (why so much home fries?!), but I do think I’m not exaggerating when I say these were some of the best hash browns I’ve had in my life. The tortilla Espanola was also very good. I liked the creamy sauce with a kick they had on it, plus the leafy greens on top. The tortilla Espanola itself was a little more egg-y than I am used it and the potatoes seemed to be more mixed in (rather than layered), but I think this all made it more “brunch-y” than traditional tortilla Espanola. My friend also really enjoyed hers.
After brunch we walked across the street to the the Publican Quality Meats to check out their ice cream selection. It seems like a cafe equivalent of the Publican, but their menu is a bit different. Still heavy on the meats, but more in sandwiches and some more traditional breakfast items like a butcher’s breakfast and biscuits and gravy. I looked over their menu and didn’t notice any ice cream listed. When we asked they pointed us to one of the freezer cases off to the side. There we found some interesting flavors for the pints like raspberry buttermilk, strawberry bubblegum, and Caramallow. The pints came with cute “Hello my name is _____” stickers on them. There also were some “Pub Pops” with flavors like huckleberry cheesecake and mint fudge. All are made right in the back from high quality and organic local milk.
I picked a pint of the Caramallow flavor. When we went to pay somehow the article came up in conversation and the cashier was a bit surprised and found their ranking really interesting. It’s pretty obvious they aren’t really an ice cream “shop,” but after I tried the Caramallow pint it still seems the ice cream at Publican Quality Meats deserves to be recognized. The caramel was rich (part distinct ribbons and then some more mixed in), the ice cream was very creamy, and I liked the texture of the fluffy (almost whipped) marshmallow chunks throughout. My friend enjoyed her bite, but then left the rest for me to tackle. I did pretty good work and luckily hadn’t filled up that much on brunch.
Both the Publican and Publican Quality Meats were delicious and high-quality places to discover in the West Loop. Next time I would want to spend a little more time walking around the West Loop and discovering more of that neighborhood. The Publican definitely has a great brunch vibe with some more traditional and nontraditional brunch items. The bacon and hash browns were excellent for those craving the traditional and the tortilla Espanola was a nice “brunch-y” take on a great Spanish dish. A stop for some quality ice cream across the street at the Publican Quality Meats was a great idea, so I’d encourage you all to do that as well. Some Instagram-worthy pictures below from the experience!
The Publican- 837 W Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60607