Public House-May 12, 2012

As the end of the school year draws near and I am becoming more and more absorbed in trying to get through the last month and a half of classes, meal planning has become somewhat of an issue for me. Tack on the fact that I was off Friday which meant I went into “vacation mode” and that Philip sang the national anthem at the roller derby bout for the Chattanooga Roller Girls Saturday and that’s a recipe for going out to eat. We considered Public House a few weeks ago but ended up at Hair of the Dog instead, so Public House it was.

As we were walking up, we had to rush to get in front of a large and very loud crowd of guys that I placed at college age. I heard one of them ask (I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he was joking), “Where are the TVs?” The hostess looked a little frightened when we walked up….I think she thought we were with them. No, thank you…table for two. We decided to sit outside…it was a beautiful night, temperatures in the seventies. In a week or two I am sure we will not see the seventies for at least three months (except in the middle of the night-maybe). Our server, Shannon, immediately came out and poured us water from this cool bottle, which he left on our table. And, look at the mini salt and pepper shakers!

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There was no question about whether we were going to order a starter or what said starter was going to be. I am sure that Philip would have liked to have tried the deviled eggs with candied bacon (heck, I’m sure I would have liked them too) but I had been dying to try the pimento cheese ever since I first saw a PH menu, at least two years ago. Two different foodie friends have told me it was a must-try, and if you’ve read more than two posts on my blog you know that I am pretty much pimento-cheese obsessed. Public House serves their pimento cheese with fried pickles and grilled sourdough. I was in the restroom when it came out, but Shannon shared the “rules” with Philip: you are supposed to spread the pimento cheese on the bread then top it with fried pickles. Now, I am also pretty obsessed with fried pickles, so this is pretty much the perfect appetizer for me. The bread was charred around the edges and cut not-too-thick and not-too-thin. The pimento cheese was creamy and spreadable, with small flecks (not large chunks) of pimento and a (tiny) hint of spice on the back end. The pickles were perfectly battered and hot but not mouth-searingly so, with a hint of spice to them as well. The sourness and heat of the pickles combined with the salty coolness of the cheese and the crunchy char on the bread equalled a starter that I would say is unmatched in my book.

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Deciding on an entree was decidedly more difficult, for me anyway. I had heard wonderful things about the fried chicken, but it comes with hot sauce, and I just can’t handle it…and I feel like when a chef puts an item on their menu, it should be experienced the way they created it (unless it contains raw onions. Then take those mothers OFF!). A burger sounded tempting, but really? I didn’t want to say that my first time at this amazing restaurant I got a burger. I considered the iceberg wedge and petite filet combo in earnest…but my eyes kept coming back to the PH fried chicken salad: fried chicken, mixed greens, tomato, Benton’s bacon (!), Reggiano cheese (a nice change from the usual suspect, cheddar), and croutons with your choice of dressing (I chose green goddess, a creamy avocado based dressing with a nice herby hit). I rarely order a salad as an entree, but I really wanted to try the fried chicken, but I really wanted some good veggies, and this seemed like a good way to have both. I also ordered a side of potatoes Lyonnaise. The salad came with two gigantic pieces of fried, boneless chicken (the fried chicken entree is traditional bone-in, I believe) with crispy greens. I loved the Reggiano cheese in place of cheddar….the texture and deep, salty, nutty flavor adds a layer of sophistication to a salad that you might not expect that from. Add to that the chunks of wonderful bacon….and it was a delicious salad. I loved the cool, creamy dressing, and I had enough left over for lunch on Monday (which Shannon kindly boxed up for me). Potatoes Lyonnaise are a French dish, thinly sliced potatoes and onions, sauteed in butter. These had a little bit of bacon on them too, and they were skin-on and fried to a deep brown, yet not really crunchy. Delicious!

By the way, you’ll have to forgive me for the quality of these photos. Without the flash, you couldn’t see anything…but with, hello overexposure!

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Like I said, the entree decision took some time for me. For Philip, not so much. You see, if shrimp & grits is on the menu, he’s probably going to get them, unless they aren’t in a cream-based sauce. Fried chicken was going to be his back up if the sauce wasn’t cream-based, but lucky for him, it was, so that’s what he got. Plus a Caesar salad. Plus a side of arugula and balsamic vinegar. I forgot to take a photo of his salad until he had eaten so much of it that the effort would have been for naught…but you’ve seen a Caesar salad before, right? There’s was good, with a good garlicky dressing, and it had red and white onions (the white ones appeared to be grilled) in it.

Philip is very particular about his shrimp and grits, and he had a bad experience at an otherwise delicious upscale local restaurant that served him shrimp and grits in a tomato-based sauce. Public House serves their shrimp and grits, um, “loose”, not in a grit cake. The grits had cream mixed in and they were topped with a sauce made from shrimp stock. There was atonof shrimp of the grits, which is pretty rare. There were also some pieces of red pepper on top. The grits were cooked perfectly, the shrimp tasted great, and I really like the shrimp-stock based sauce. Philip enjoyed PH’s shrimp and grits but did say that it wasn’t his favorite that he’s had….just because he prefers the fried grit cake. The arugula was very fresh and crisp, but he did say that he would have liked a little more balsamic vinegar on top of it.

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We were pretty much stuffed when we finished our meals, but when we eyed the dessert menu we figured we’d find room at some point. I really wanted to try the apple fritters with bourbon semifreddo, but semifreddo is a frozen dessert similar to ice cream, so no go since we were taking it home. We usually order crème brûlée when it is available, but again, that’s not really something that translates well to a 25-minute trip home. However, when I saw molten chocolate cake with mint creme anglaise (a light pouring custard), my mouth started watering. The molten cakes are heated right before serving, so Shannon boxed it up for us and wrote heating instructions on the box. Philip is not quite as big of a mint fan as I am, but the mint in this creme anglaise was very finely chopped fresh mint, giving the creme a very fresh taste that wasn’t too strong or overpowering. It meshed perfectly with the oozy chocolate of the cake. I will be making these at home!

I’ve wanted to try Public House since it opened and I am not sure what took me so long. The food was amazing and the atmosphere was beautiful. The service was friendly and fantastic. The prices were a little upscale, but not outrageous, and the lunch prices are no more than your average casual dining restaurant. I will definitely be going back to Public House Chattanooga, and I recommend that you try it as well.

Public House Chattanooga is located at 1110 Market Street, Chattanooga, TN 37402 (in Warehouse Row). You can reach them at 423-266-3366. You can also make reservations online. You can read more about them as well as check out their menu on their website, http://publichousechattanooga.com. You can also “like” them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.

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