Life is short, so sometimes it’s perfectly acceptable to treat yourself to something nice for no other reason than “because.”
That’s why Louise and I went to Public House for lunch Wednesday afternoon. Located on Market Street next to Warehouse Row, Public House serves the classic Southern “meat and three” with a flare of fine dining at an affordable price.
It was an abnormally warm day for December—in the mid 60’s I heard on the radio.
And I was feeling like I do on a nice spring day: fresh, happy, and alive. Walking inside Public House with my sister next to me only enhanced my mood.
The hostess walked us down the hardwood floors, passed the brick wall and black and white photos, to a white wooden table by the window looking out on the patio. It was after the lunch rush hour, but the restaurant was still three-quarters full. The waiter brought out a carafe of water and two glasses right away. He recited the specials, which included vegetable stew and cornbread, crab cakes served with a special sauce, and fried catfish marinated in ginger and soy.
Louise asked the waiter if the catfish could come as grilled instead of fried since she’s still on a diet.
The waiter shook his head but said the North Atlantic Blue Cod was grilled, and that she couldn’t go wrong there.
She and I took several minutes to look over the menu because it’s the kind of menu where you want to order everything—like the red wine braised pot roast and the duck confit—and so you look it over two or three times. As we contemplated our luscious options we snacked on our $9 appetizer of Hot Chicken Bites, Texas Toast, and Pickles.
“Don’t fill up on the appetizer like you usually do, Rhonda,” Louise ordered.
The good thing about Public House’s appetizers is that they are just the right amount to satisfy your hunger and, at the same time, leave you wanting more.
The chicken bites did just that. They are little bites of fried chicken lightly coated with a sweet and spicy sauce. You can eat them alone or on top of the Texas toast and pickles.
The waiter took our order right after we finished the appetizer. As recommended, Louise went with the cod, and I went with the fried catfish. The main plates come with a cheddar muffin and two sides you get to pick. Louise chose the little green salad and mashed potatoes. I chose the roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon and the roasted beets with goat cheese. Though, I was torn between choosing the honey roasted butternut squash and braised collar greens instead.
“I didn’t know you liked beets,” Louise said after we ordered.
“They’re nature’s candy,” I said and Louise laughed because she thinks beets taste like dirt.
To each their own. When our food came, which looked just as pleasing as it tasted, my succulent ruby beets covered with melted goat cheese were the first to go. I tried the roasted Brussels sprouts next. They were salty and crisp on the outside, tender and moist on the inside. The bits of bacon mixed in with the sprouts added a rich pop of flavor, too.
But let me tell you. That fried catfish was the best I ever had. And I should know a thing or two about catfish being raised in the south. The fish was perfectly battered and fried to a golden crisp. I sunk my fork into the fillet and the aromas from the ginger and soy sprang into the air. The fork cut through the white fish beneath the batter like butter. I dipped the fish in the creamy remoulade and took a bite. A savory, perfectly crafted taste in my mouth ensued.
Louise loved her meal so much she almost didn’t share. In the end, though, I persuaded her to give me a bite of her buttery cod and garlic mashed potatoes when I told her I’d pay for the appetizer.
Lunch items at Public House range from $5 for the Soup of the Day to $17 for the Petite Filet and Wedge Salad. For the Chicken Bites and Catfish, I owed $23. Fine dining on a dime, I say.
And it’s a dime I’m always happy to spend at Public House. This place is a treat for any occasion, even if the occasion is “just because.”
Location: 1110 Market Street
Lunch Hours: M - Sat: 11am - 2:30pm
Dinner Hours: M - Th: 5pm - 9pm; Fri: 5pm - 10pm; Sat: 5:30pm - 10pm