Publik Social House sits right at the corner of Peachtree and North Ave Ponce (thanks Peter!). As the restaurant is directly next to the Fox Theatre, across from Gary Mennie’s Livingston, and near quite a number of other eateries, it might seem a less than ideal. Normally, I’m really apprehensive when ownership takes one concept, uproots it, and then comes back with something totally different. On the surface, it would appear that the owners of Publik, who previously operated Bazzaar out of the same space, did just that. However, such isn’t exactly the reality. Open just a handful of weeks, it was high time I had some food there and check out this renovated lounge.
As a fan of Bazzaar, I was sad to see it shut down. Further to the point, with the plethora of food options in the near vicinity and lack of close late night spots, I was ever more bummed. To complicate matters, I wasn’t sure if a group of bar owners could successfully open and operate a gastro pub, or something closely resembling one as it stands. However, things aren’t exactly what they seem. The truth is that Bazzaar was actually the conceptual leap for the guys behind the scenes as they have dabbled in the restaurant scene for sometime. In its earliest stages, Bazzaar was probably known for their food more than anything else, and for good reason. You need not look past one of their earliest chefs, one Richard Blais, to realize that food has always been a focal point of 654 Peachtree.
Over the past few months, the two-story space has gone through a minor editing session. The couches have been replaced with wood tables and bar chairs, a few touches of white tiles are now in place, and the bar has been extended, updated, and dotted with televisions. The brick walls have always been a big plus in my book, and they seem to work well with the new artwork that is in place. Upstairs still seems accessible, but I haven’t been up there – so I have no idea if its for private events, general use, or whatever else.
To run the kitchen, Publik relies on a kitchen man from P’Cheen in Inman Park. I can’t totally confirm this, as the couple of employees didn’t seem to recall his name. Regardless, the menu, as it sits now, is short in stature but comfortably balanced in selection. In fact, it’s short enough that I’ll append a copy to the bottom of this post since the Publik website is just a landing page at this juncture. While you wait to get there, I’ll tell you that some standard pub selections are available (fish and chips, shrimp & grits, a burger, etc…). Nothing outlandish or truly envelop pushing is available, and for that, we should really call them a gastro pub. Still, there are some nice twists to be found (goat cheese fritters), and those selections have the potential to satisfy some of the more adventurous diners. A handful of daily specials are usually available, but I can’t really speak to them as they change. I’ve only been by twice, once to snack on their house-cut fries and once for lunch (where by the fries were my side of choice) so I can’t speak to much outside my amply sized duck confit panini.
Served up on a thick, spongy, and crisply cooked ciabatta, the shredded duck was topped with a sweet barbecue sauce and mixed in with some thinly cut fried leeks. Usually averse to sugary dishes, I really liked the execution here. Though it might appear that the meat to bread ratio was a little off, the flavors of the duck were carried through from start to finish. The bread was a great compliment to the shredded fowl, providing just enough richness to balance the aforementioned sweetness. Closer inspection of the duck left me a little less optimistic, but not by much. It was only slightly dried, nothing that would be discernable to anything but the closest of inspections.
The side of fries, which are cut on site, were quite good during both visits. They were right in the middle as thickness goes, had a nice crisp, and were good and warm when delivered. They were supplemented with a small serving of the same sauce used on the duck panini. The fries themselves are somewhat sweet, and this is amplified by the sauce. Tasting the sauce in this manner led me to two conclusions: 1) I liked it very much and 2) if used in any large quantity, I would probably tire of it very quickly. It was a very light sauce, so if you’re prone to the thicker, heavier barbecues, this one may not do you right. Still, I was shocked as I was repeatedly forced, by powers unknown, to dip my fries in the sauce instead of the side of mustard I had ordered.
It bares mentioning that there is a large chalkboard which houses the list of beers. Though a good bit of it is blocked off by a table, it seems like there are some good choices. Meanwhile, there is a wine list roughly 30 deep that seems worth exploring.
I’m very much liking the small, deliberate menu; although, it wouldn’t bother me if a few adventurous items showed up. In that thinking, I would really like to see them polish off the supplemental goods with some house made sauces (as opposed to the bottled Heinz 57 and the yellow mustard). Still, even if things remain stagnate for the foreseeable future, and if everything else on the menu presents as well as the duck confit panini, I will have no problem making this a regular part of my restaurant rotation.
Charcuterie selection … 9
Cacciatorini, domestic prosciutto, pâté of the day, cornichons, grain mustard
Breaded fried oysters w. spicy aioli … 9
Crab cakes w. Bloody Mary sauce … 9
Goat cheese fritters w. field greens, granny smith apple, walnuts, citrus vinaigrette … 9
Caesar salad (add chicken 3.5 / add shrimp 5.5) … 6
Soup du jour … 6
French fries, mashed potatoes, succotash (all 4)
Grilled chicken panini w. prosciutto, provolone, basil … 7
Swiss BLT panini on choice of whole wheat or white bread … 7
Duck confit panini w. fried leeks and Duck Porter bbq sauce … 8
Pastrami w. sauerkraut, Russian dressing, Swiss cheese … 8
Burger w. organic beef, lettuce, tomatoes … 8
additional toppings .50: bacon, cheddar, Swiss, blue, mushrooms
all sandwiches come with choice of fries or spring salad
Pub ale fish and chips … 14
Guinness short ribs w. parmesan polenta … 16
Georgia shrimp & grits (stone ground grits tasso ham gravy) … 14
Beef tenderloin skewers (anticucho style w. mixed vegetables) … 14
Seared salmon w. succotash … 13