Jun 22, 2017

The Public House: So simple, clean, new and just fine

Emily behind the bar
Doc’s Report:

I grew up in dark, loud, crowded, hot smoky bars like the Four Aces and Bishop’s, where tired and happy factory workers swilled Stroh’s and ate cheeseburgers after bowling or softball with their neighbors, making racist jokes and sexual puns.

The Public House isn’t like those bars. It’s as bright, still, quiet, clean and cool as its logo: a white square with a pencil-thin black border displaying an all-caps “P” in sans serifs bold and a lower case script italic “h” separated by a simple forward slash.

The white walls of the Public House serve the same function as white space on a page: to organize and draw attention to the contents. At the Public House, it’s the orange leather seats, the vibrant green living wall of houseplants behind the bar, the scintillating paper clip affixing your bar tab to the back of a card bearing the logo, centered.

The whiter shade of pale interior décor of the Public House is one of many reasons to visit: the counter, tables, bar stool stems, napkins, doors, exposed plumbing, fridge, garnish trays --
Inside the Public House
everything is white, glass and silver, bathed in natural light through large, clear windows. The immaculate gender-neutral restroom where I freshened up stocked 120 rolls of white toilet tissue encased in a clear glass cabinet. The Charmin bears would roar their approval.

Our attentive and knowledgeable bartender Emily says Los Angeles is leading the trend toward clean, uncluttered tavern décor. You can also see it at Tavern 101. Emily, who has worked in fashion and has her own website, also notes that those same values are influencing web design: clean and uncluttered, with consistent, focused messaging.

And when you read in sequence both “caramelized” and “broccoli” spelled correctly on the menu, you can figure someone is paying attention to detail in the kitchen, too.

The menu also includes aioli, farm eggs, sheep feta, shaved watermelon radish and uncured bacon -- which reminded me that, in cooking, as in writing and design, it’s both what you take out in the sequential drafts and what you leave out in the first place that result in clarity.

I suppose that’s why, in our food and cooking, we see so many terms like “pitted,” “boned,” “unsweetened,” “decaffeinated,” “no artificial additives” or, simply, “clean” food. Showing my support for gender equality and healthy eating, I recently had a “deconstructed BLGT” --
A sphere of ice
crumbled bacon, shredded lettuce, croutons and grape tomatoes, served in a bowl with a side of mayo.  (As Pink Floyd might have said: “Hey, kitchen! Leave that food alone!”)

However you slice it, form follows function, clarity of purpose shows itself in conciseness, and discipline is the will to say “no.” Or, as Emily put it: “There’s intention in every drink.” 

To illustrate, in response to our request for advice to novice bartenders, she says:
•    “Pour beer in the glass at an angle.”(Wait! Beer in a glass?)
•    “Pour alcohol with the spout toward the glass.” (A spout?)
•    “The shape of the ice” -- a topic covered at length elsewhere -- “is more important than the shape of the glass.”

In response to my nostalgia for the Cutty Sark of my 20s, she shows us the real stuff, complete with the locations and history of their distilleries: Glenrothes, Laphroaig and Islay. Two fingers will run you $13, but served by Emily the right way in the right glass.

Emily put her training and knowledge to work in serving me two refreshing and original non-alcoholic drinks, each in a tall, thin, chilled glass with pebble ice and a black straw (as much  accessory as straw, actually). I had a ginger beer (fresh ginger with simple syrup and soda) and a birch beer (bark, a simple syrup and soda). They were delicious, authentic. The Public House makes its own syrups and juices.

In brief: If you’re looking for walls papered with rock concert posters and a mixed drink named after sexual misconduct, you’ll have to look elsewhere. (Harry and I have had great times at those types of bars, too.)

But times change. From the entrance to the Public House, I could once have seen the Bay City
A card for the bill
Times, Norman’s and J.C. Penney’s. Now I see the Times Lofts, City Market, a pawn shop and one of the best public libraries in mid-Michigan.

Now there is traffic on Adams in the middle of a midweek afternoon. And a block south and three blocks west, where Mill End once tottered, there are lofts, Tavern 101, the Bay City Times -- and a familiar view of the Saginaw River, which, we presume, just keeps rolling along, unvexed, to the bay.

A lesson from our visit to the Public House: The older you get, what matters is the quality of the service, not the intensity of the moment.

See the hairy guy's report on the Public House: The walls are white, the eggs are bright, the ice is cool and you can feel like a socialite


Anonymous said...

I always enjoy your critique's Doc, but this place will be closed soon. This is not L.A. or New Jersey, or even Detroit. Those who don't understand their environs will not prosper. I'm sorry to say this, but I don't think this will fly.

cowboyzist said...

Lawsuits a flying for noise complaints. Brought by upstairs neighbors. Justified or not, chronic complainers none the less. Please keep this bar going, real bay city bar patrons dont want these customers going outside of downtown bringing their attitude of entitlement and arrogance to the shot and beer taverns.