Publican offers quality food, cooking know-how

March 23, 2012 8:26:58 PM PDT
It's only fitting that in the heart of the city's Meatpacking District, there is a beacon of bacon, sausage and beef in a class by itself.

Publican Quality Meats is the younger, tougher, kid brother to the Publican Restaurant across the street, offering many of the same items, only in their raw state.

"We have this ability to show people that want to learn how to cook, that do know a couple of things. Show them how to really step it up," said Chris Kuziemko.

PQM combines old world techniques, such as dry-aging, in-house curing and hand-selling products with a decidedly modern approach that reflects the butcher's creativity.

"We do everything from dried cured salami, to terrines, to pressed head cheeses," said Erling Wu-Bower. "I think swath is much wider. Whereas a lot of butcher shops definitely fall under, more butcher shops that are not here in Chicago fall under a specific heritage; We kind of cross boundaries."

That means there's a bit of Jewish deli - like smoked fish - but also German, in the form of sausage. Mostly, it's an Italian accent here, with nods to Tuscan salami and even a range of sandwiches, since they bake all of their bread in-house each day.

"Ideas that we've been able to work on in the last three years at the Publican," Wu-Bower said. "Try to feel like, how can make an amazing dish at the Publican, stand out on sandwich."

The "Train to Tuscany" features house-made salami with honey and ricotta cheese on focaccia, while the same bread houses a mile-high tuna muffaletta with an olive relish, shaved Brussels sprouts and soft-boiled eggs.

"Poached albacore, we've been doing it at the Publican for three years. It's an amazing albacore tuna, it's what I would prefer to eat," Kuziemko said.

Toothsome lamb meatballs are jammed into soft lobster roll buns, then topped with crisp cabbage and mint, while a yogurt-based raita is schmeared on griddled flatbread, then braised pork belly is treated like a gyro, rolled up with pea shoots, onions and mint. Even if you just want to grab a plate of cured meats and an imported beer, you can do that too.

The butcher shop/cafe is open every day, but the dining room is only open from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. Still, this is the kind of place where you're more likely to stock up on things to go, so you can prepare them at home.