I have to be honest, Chicago O’Hare has never been my favorite airport–particularly for connections, I prefer DFW. One of the big reasons why is the food Terminal 3–DFW has traditionally had more choices, and a lot better choices at that. O’Hare has been working to improve this, though, and I got a chance to sample one of the new restaurants a couple of weeks ago: Publican Tavern.
A satellite branch of The Publican restaurant downtown, the airport version looks to replicate the experience–this is a sit-down restaurant, not a food court booth, although they do have “on the go” options. I stopped by during a 2-hour layover so that I wouldn’t have to worry about timing. Although the restaurant was crowded, I managed to score a table immediately and the service was relatively quick, so I got the sense that I could have made a tighter connection if I’d needed to.
The menu is elevated gastropub food. Coming off a long trip, I was looking for something on the slightly healthier side and got the salmon. It turned out to be a wonderful piece of fish–perfectly cooked with nice, crispy skin. The polenta underneath was creamy and the veg on top was clearly fresh and well-curated. The quality of the ingredients and the preparation were exactly what you’d expect from a high-end place owned by a top local chef.
Oddly, the restaurant had run out of iced tea, but the server was extremely gracious about it, offering to run to one of the other restaurants in the terminal if need be to get some (I just had water). And, even beyond that, the service was top-notch–my waiter knew the menu inside and out and was able to discuss where the salmon had been sourced, not something you typically find in an airport.
About the only downsides to The Publican were price (at $26, the fish was expensive for airport food, but in line with restaurant prices for food of the same quality) and noise. The setting is meant to evoke a bar, so you can’t expect it to be too quiet, but as someone who often needs to work or take a call in an airport, you’d have problems doing those in The Publican, at least during peak times. While some tables along the walls may or may not have access to power outlets, mine was located in the middle of the floor, so I was out of luck on that score.
Overall, I’m happy to say I enjoyed The Publican, and I’m glad O’Hare features another place I wouldn’t mind eating. I’m actually excited to go back and try something else, and will report back as soon as I do.
See you in the skies!