Publican Quality Meats
837 W. Fulton Market. 312-445-8977
Rating: !!! (out of four)
If there is any chef in Chicago that puzzles the Great Burgerelli, it is Paul Kahan. Though this talented fellow helms the kitchen at not one but two meat-centric restaurants, The Publican and newly-opened butcher shop Publican Quality Meats, he has not a single burger on either of his menus. Luckily, Mr. Kahan has seen the light and instituted Burger, Beer, and Bourbon Night at Publican Quality Meats. The inaugural event took place on May 1, but will recur every Tuesday evening starting June 5. Scarcely able to contain my anticipation, I was, of course, one of the first in line when PQM fired up the griddle a few weeks ago.
The burger: PQM will offer two burgers each month: a standard Publican Burger ($10), as well as a rotating special burger that, in the future, may be conceived by guest chefs, I am told. The Publican Burger -- the creation of Kahan's CEB (chief executive burgermaker) Justin Large -- is worthy of top billing; this moist, flavorful patty of mostly Slagel Farms beef advertised as five ounces, but somehow seems much larger when it arrives at my table topped with a classic slice of American cheese. The patty is cooked to a true medium rare, with a quite-pink center that retains all the wonderful juices and outer edges griddled to a perfect crispness. While a bland patty is an unforgivable offense, this one veers almost too far in the opposite direction, tasting so salty that it necessitates more than one beer to wash it down.
The bun: Baked at Highland Bakery, this thick bun is necessary to capture the juices that stream from the burger’s center. The top half fares better than the bottom, which does the most absorbing. Still, a light grilling on the bun helps it remains mostly intact through the meal.
The fixings: Kahan shows restraint in topping the signature burger, whose patty is nestled under only cheese, lettuce, a few sauteed onions, and “special sauce.” Somewhere between giardiniera and relish, the greenish-and-red flecked sauce defies precise categorization (and Kahan’s not sharing the secret), but adds crunch and brightness to the meat.
Everything else: Each burger is served with the same thin, oh-so-snackable frites as are served at Publican, but with all that salt, a beverage or two is quite necessary. Luckily, two of the B’s in Burger, Beer, and Bourbon Night do the trick. Craft beer drafts ($5-$6) and bourbon shots ($5) arrive promptly from the busy servers and quickly refresh your palate. Should you require some vegetables with that meaty meal, bright salads with farm-fresh produce fit the bill ($8-$9).
Bottom line: No doubt there will be crowds when PQM's burger night returns on a regular basis in June, but I do believe this one is worth the wait.
The Great Burgerelli is a fearless seeker of fine burgers. email@example.com