Publican Anker doesn’t quite live up to the exceptional quality of its other family members, but for a casual Wicker Park hang, it’s worth checking out.
The newest member of the Publican family—joining successful siblings the Publican and Publican Quality Meats—focuses much of its menu on seafood. Think fish stew, smoked mackerel and even a swordfish sausage. But never fear, fans of Publican and PQM’s excellent house-made charcuteries and pub burger: Those meaty, from-the-farm gems are still available, and they remain the standouts.
Chef AJ Walker has fashioned a menu that imitates the early 20th-century saloons and breweries found in Wicker Park. So it’s as easy to just grab a beer and a snack as it is to plunk down for a full meal. If you’re taking option number one, go for the pickle plate, which will get you a platter of pickle slices—slightly less spicy than those at PQM—accompanied by butter and saltines. We, however, wanted to give Anker a true and thorough test run, and so went with two entrees: The dorade (a whitefish found in the Mediterranean Sea) and the pork collar.
The dorade, it turns out, comes with a heavy side of fanfare. Your server will ask if you want to have your whole fish filleted for you, and we highly recommend it, especially if you’re something of an exhibitionist: Nearly every person in the generous bar space, sitting in the booths or occupying a smattering of high tops turned to watch the spectacle unfold at our table.
Was it tasty? Yes, the fish was grilled—flaky, topped with Aleppo pepper and served with naan and lettuce (we couldn’t figure out what exactly to do with huge pieces of bibb lettuce, but sure), letting the fish speak for itself. Would I get it again? Not unless I was trying to impress someone.
The higher notes of the evening were less piscine, including the Slagel Family Farm’s pork collar, sliced and served with apple, cilantro and urfa pepper. The pork was tender, complemented by the brightness of the fruit and the citrusy herb. A side of snappy cauliflower had a bit of a kick from salsa macha, paired with cippolini onion, hazelnut and kale.
We’ll be returning to Anker for the Industry House Shot, a shot with Letherbee’s Besk, Dolin Blanc, Aperol, Peychaud’s bitters and house orange bitters, coupled with a beer and a main course from the farm. If there’s something that chef Walker always gets right, it’s his meats.
Atmosphere: Pub-like, with dark blue-accented decor. Tables are dark wood, and the place has a nautical feel, all the way down to the boisterous crowd.
What to eat: Stick to AJ Walker’s strengths, the meats you’d find on a farm. And absolutely finish with the warm, sticky and almost impossibly light banoffee pudding.
What to drink: The cocktails are fine, but we recommend ordering a shot and a beer of your choice.
Where to sit: Large groups should grab a booth, but our next visit will be at the bar.
|Venue name:||Publican Anker||Contact:|
1576 N Milwaukee Ave
|Opening hours:||Sun–Thurs 3:30–11pm, Fri–Sat 3:30pm–12am|
|Transport:||El: Blue line to Damen. Bus: 50, 56, 72.|
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