Jun 22, 2017

At the Public House, the walls are white, the eggs are bright, the ice is cool and you can feel like a socialite

Public House: Minimalist
The hairy guy's report:

Harry has a 91-year-old neighbor who is prone to insightful homespun observations. The weather, he said the other day, was "hotter than a two-peckered billy goat."

Nobody would call Bob trendy, which is surely fine with him.

In contrast, the new Public House, in a downtown storefront on Adams, is as trendy as all get-out, with a clean white interior, craft cocktails, designer ice cubes and lots of buzz.

About a week after it opened to a packed house, the Public House debuted its also-trendy food menu, with kale salad, mushroom tartine and the like. But one item caught our eye, a treat that Bob might enjoy: pickled eggs.

The hairy guy is inclined to wait awhile before writing about a new bar, not because he harbors illusions that his comments will make or break a place but just because it makes sense to give the staff time to figure things out. There's no point in writing about something today that will be different tomorrow.

For instance, the hours for the Public House are in flux, with the proprietor still figuring out when people will show up and when they won't. (At present, the bar is open 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, till midnight Friday and Saturday, and noon-4 p.m. Sunday.) UPDATE: 4-11 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, noon-midnight Friday and Saturday, and noon-4 p.m. Sunday.) A happy
Pickled eggs and a Manhattan
hour of some sort is in the works, we're told. And the mushroom tartine (whatever it was) is already gone from the changeable menu.

But the idea of upscale pickled eggs seemed like it couldn't wait. And the eggs turned out not to be as expected, which was a good thing.

Rather than survivalist-grade rubbery things plucked from a large dusty jar, the pickled eggs at the Public House are closer to standard-issue hard-boiled and peeled, except that they're soaked for awhile in beet juice or tumeric so they're purple or bright yellow on the outside. $5 gets you two, cut in half and served with pickled pepper aioli. Very good.

In case you haven't gotten the hint, this isn't a place to get cheap beers and watch a Tigers game. There are no TVs or bar games (we inquired about maybe a backgammon set stashed somewhere, but no). This is a place to relax with a drink and feel good about it. A friend who stopped in one evening with his very significant other noted later that they never felt rushed to finish up and move along, despite the crowd.

When Harry showed up, he asked for a Manhattan. It's his favorite drink, though he's not picky about it. He likes to see what he'll get.

On a first visit, it came with an artfully-carved triangular slice of orange peel. Harry mentioned to the waitress that Manhattans usually have a cherry; she quickly returned with three sour cherries.

Trying again on a second visit, Emily behind the bar asked if he wanted whiskey or bourbon.
Ben behind the bar
Ben, the bar manager,  interrupted to suggest rye. "That's how they're doing it in New York now," he said.

Faced with the option of looking like a provincial commoner or a sophisticated cosmopolitan habitue, the choice was clear. Rye, of course. Harry instantly envisioned himself one of the swells relaxing at Tavern on the Green, at a prime table overlooking Central Park. It was glorious. The limo driver was in no hurry, of course. The secretary would hold the calls, unless it's Sinatra. Can you believe the Fed raising the interest rate again? Are they nuts? Hey, I got my usual third-row seats at the theater tonight!

Poof. Back to reality on a side street in Bay City. The $8 drink, complete with a cherry, was great (though Harry would have preferred a stout, sturdy tumbler to the delicate coupe glass). You do have to wonder what New York bartenders tell customers who like their drinks with plain old whiskey: "Whaddya think this is, New Jersey?" Probably not.

But the Public House has a menu of 12 house cocktails. If you stick to those, you'll have no preconceived expectations.

The Psychedelic Fur ($12), for instance, has rum, ginger, strawberry, fernet and bitters, along with a large sliver of cucumber. (Nothing explains the name; it doesn't look
Jillian at work
psychedelic and it's not at all furry. But drink names are like that; after all, Sex on the Beach didn't have sand.) The Psychedelic Fur is very refreshing and not too sweet, and it comes in a tall glass with an equally tall block of ice. Another of the house drinks is the gin-based Eden, which is topped with cucumber slices; if you like the scent of cucumber, it's worth a try.

Back to the ice. The place is big on ice. Drinks come with various kinds.

Behind the bar is a hefty green metal machine that looks like it could be a torture device but turns out to produce shaved ice for a rum drink called Local Flare ($11). Another device turns a small block of ice into a perfect sphere in a minute, as if by magic, for the Open Forum, a rye-based drink. Some other drinks come with single large cubes.

An assortment of beers include bottles of Stroh's, Bohemia Clasica, PBR and Miller High Life at $3 each. Among the others is one called Death by Coconut, which sounds like a bad way to go, for $5. Assorted wines also are available.

Among the bottles behind the bar, Harry noticed Benedictine, which is his favorite Christmas drink (but a treat anytime), and something called Monkey Shoulder, which turns out to be a brand of Scotch (and sounds even less appealing than Death by Coconut).

The room's minimalist look -- a lot of white paint was employed here -- means that everything in color stands out. Bursts of green (plants), orange (seats), gold (lights) and red (fire
The interior: Splashes of color
extinguishers) scream for attention. The greenery includes an impressive wall of real houseplants behind the bar. There are no beer posters. Big windows look out over Adams, which has suddenly picked up foot traffic from the new City Market across the street.

One nice detail: The little paper napkins placed under drinks are actually square. Harry appreciates this for his longstanding habit of folding napkins into origami birds.

The men's room has a nice cabinet that holds a lifetime supply of toilet paper and napkins. The sink is cool. We have nothing to report on the ladies' room but we inadvertently might, since the side-by-side restrooms lack any signs denoting gender.

By the way, Bob the neighbor said he's never actually had pickled eggs, but added helpfully that a friend suggests a daily dose of apple cider vinegar for leg cramps. Bob thinks it also might be good for pickling eggs.

See Doc’s report on the Public House: So simple, clean, new and just fine

  The particulars:
  Public House
  811 Adams

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