Public House

20. June 2007 American, Midtown 4

140 East 41st Street between Lexington and Third
if we paid, about $150 for two, with two drinks, with tip

I was invited by the Public House to a tasting this week. I don’t usually hang out in the midtown area but I was curious to taste what bar food could mean to chef Robert Dziekonski, a native New Yorker who has cooked with Tom Valenti and Danny Meyer. A very large American flag drapes the wall near the bar and sets the tone for the rest of the space. Booths are for small groups, while a lounge off the side is available for bigger parties. I’d equate the interior to a steakhouse more than a pub. The clientele falls in that range as well: suits who come in for business meetings and for after-work drinks.

There really isn’t a good phrase to describe the Public House menu but “bar food.” And it’s not the gastro-pub type either; it’s straightforward, all-American bar food. I’ve been on a meat-eating binge lately so I was quite excited to eat some burgers and barbeque ribs. With a request to serve everything in smaller portions so I don’t have to be wheeled out of the restaurant after eating, my companion and I started with the famous hot spinach and artichoke dip and grilled pita triangles. The Public House version was roasted in a baking dish with four kinds of cheeses. This made the top a little burnt and crispy. If the manager didn’t push for it, I would have ignored it. Thank god for outspoken restaurant managers.

The mussels were one of my favorites. Cooked with shallots and garlic but steamed in Brooklyn lager rather than wine, they also came with slivers of jalapeños which added a nice kick to them. I was good enough not to dip the bread in the broth lest I get too full too early. The scallops were a hit. They were perfectly seared and meaty, drizzled with vinaigrette of bacon and whole-grain mustard.

Public House is probably not the first place I would go to for crab cakes and barbeque ribs. Their St. Louis ribs had great texture but I could have done without the sweet sauce on them. The crab cakes were more delicious without the avocado aioli which was too creamy and salty. They came with a good combination of watercress and caramelized onions, however.

The other main courses fared better: our Angus burger didn’t come with the bacon we ordered but the sautéed onions were excellent with it. I appreciated that English muffins were used which made the burger less heavy. The filet mignon sliders shouldn’t be missed. The onion brioche were small, light and toasty and brought out the beefy taste of the medium-rare filet mignon. The onions and blue cheese were good touches. The fries that came with both dishes were addictingly crispy.

The “bar” in bar food is supported by specially-concocted drinks like a martini with olives stuffed with blue cheese and a summery spiked lemonade. Decadent dessert choices included chocolate cake and cookie dough servings. We opted for the blueberry-peach crisp topped with vanilla ice cream instead of the espresso martini. They did end up wheeling me out of Public House after all.

4 thoughts on “Public House”

  • 1
    rr on June 27, 2007

    Do you actually think that they gave you smaller portions?

  • 2
    cia on June 27, 2007

    We got two filet mignon sliders instead of the usual order of three, and they let us have an appetizer portion of the crab cakes instead of a main course. They were generous with the rest.

  • 3
    AYK on November 7, 2007

    I was dissapointed with this place overall. When I first read this review, I couldnt wait to try it out. The spinach and artichoke dip was excellent and so that did not dissapoint. However both my companion and I ordered the crab cakes and they were just a major disappointment. Definitely nowhere near good quality crab cakes. I asked about the mussels dish that you had but Public House apparently no longer serves the dish.

    My main complaint about the place was its lousy service. Our waitress kept on going AWOL for long stretches of time which was very annoying when we needed more drinks.

    I would give this place 6/10 for the overall dining experience.

  • 4
    cia on November 8, 2007

    Aw, I wrote that it’s not the first place to go for crab cakes!

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