Ducking into the Publican Restaurant in Chicago’s Fulton Market neighborhood, one won’t be assaulted by an over-the-top winter wonderland. What makes the supremely cozy, minimal restaurant—which describes its menu as “an homage to beer, oysters, and pork”—seem so festive is its quietly warm, down-home vibe. The space blends state fair Americana—booths around the perimeter evoke livestock pens—with the feeling of a cavernous but homey German beer hall. The menu lends itself to this time of year, with a sampling of dry aged hams, inventive but unembellished pork dishes, traditional meat offerings, fresh oysters and seafood—those looking to go all out can order the three-tiered Grand Seafood Collection tower (with 48 hours’ notice)—rustic desserts, and an impressive selection of beer, wine, and booze.
We had the good fortune of stopping by the evening they untied their massive, plainly lit Christmas tree in the center of the room, so aromas of meaty dishes, winter vegetables, and hearty ales mingled with subtle pine. Once you shake off the snow or thaw out from the Windy City’s notoriously brutal winter bite, settle in for the warmth of easy cheer that only lasts these precious few weeks.