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Publican Quality Meats Lives Up To Its Name

By Anthony Todd in Food on Feb 21, 2012 7:00PM

Butcher & Larder, you've got company; Publican Quality Meats is open for business. Chicago's artisan butchering community suddenly got a lot bigger two weeks ago when PQM, the new butcher/grocer/sandwich shop helmed by Paul Kahan, opened its doors. We finally managed to make it in yesterday, and were blown away.

Everything Kahan touches turns to gold. The man doesn't own a single bad restaurant, and two of his spots are among our top five favorite places in the entire city of Chicago. With PQM, we might have to change that to three. Kahan has been a long-time advocate for sustainable meat and snout-to-tail dining, and that philosophy has now moved out of the kitchen and into the butcher case, which is packed with more porcine goodies than most of us have ever encountered in one place.

Most visitors to PQM are going to stay for a sandwich. Good thing, too, since they are pretty darn good. We tried the "Train to Tuscany," a combination of Toscano salami, honey, ricotta cheese and muscatel vinegar. The sandwich didn't weigh us down with a pound of meat—a taste was enough—and the balance of sweet and salty kept us happily munching till the last bite. Sandwiches come with homemade chips and a pickle and cost between $9 and $10. Next time, we'll be chowing down PQM's take on a gyro, the "Better than a Gyro" made with braised pork belly.

In addition to the meat counter and sandwiches, PQM serves a full selection of beer and wine. They carry Three Floyds "Ham on Rye" on draft, and their wine selection is affordable and generously doled out. If you're really adventurous, spend a little more and get the Butcher's Meal Combo for two ($22) which gives a taste of braised beef, blood sausage, chorizo and a selection of veggies. You can always get daily selections of charcuterie and cheese, though if you want them to go you'll have to buy them by the pound from the deli counter. Don't go in expecting Jewel-level prices—the corned beef is $20/pound.

Our favorite part of PQM? The handwritten tags on everything from the cheeses to the bottles of coke. Each item in the store is given a provenance, a source and a story—a worthwhile endeavor for a shop that trades in formerly living things. Plus, it avoids a certain level of foodie elitism; you don't have to know exactly what everything is in order to buy anything. Don't know what a muffaleta is? Read the sign!

Inevitably, some will complain about the high prices at PQM. It is a bit pricy, but we think of it as a question of budgeting. We'd gladly eat vegetarian for a week in exchange for another taste of that salami.