The last girl in NYC to…eat at Public

Contributed by Lindsay Feinberg, The Lunch Belle

Wednesday, February 15, 2012 at 12:49PM
  • Restaurant  Public
  • Cuisine  American, eclectic
  • Location  210 Elizabeth St. (between Prince & Spring Streets), Manhattan
  • Phone  212-343-7011
  • Directions  Hopstop
  • Atmosphere  spacious, cabin/après-ski chic, sexy
  • Attire  smart/hip casual
  • Ideal for  group dining, 1×1, foodies, open late, date night, private parties, brunch, dine at the bar
  • Price  moderate – expensive
  • Public on Urbanspoon

She’s the kind of house guest that you really want to impress.  Because her idea of a blood pressure-raising clusterf*ck is New York City.  “It’s just so cold.  And dirty.  And the buildings block all of the natural light.  And why is everything so expensive?  Ughhh!”  See folks, I take these negative comments/word-vomit as a personal challenge.  Why?  Because I happen to love New York City and, apparently, want everyone else to feel the same way.  So when a certain Southern Californian yogi/hipster with a diva-like sass made her annual East Coast appearance recently, I was hell-bent on taking her to restaurants – bars – neighborhoods, etc. – that I thought she would *actually* like.  Places that had the potential of changing my little sister’s “hater” view of my beloved city.

I only had Leila in town for a handful of days and, having already done the brunch and shopping thing in Brooklyn, the pressure was on to find something/somewhere equally as “rad” (…as they say in Cali).  The East Village came to mind, as did the Lower East Side.  But, ultimately, Nolita won.  And what better neighborhood restaurant than Public, which has a menu as eclectic as my sister’s personality and taste.  Plus, it would be my first time dining there, too!


Although we had arrived at 2:15pm, Public was slam-packed!  “Who the hell eats brunch this late?”  I quipped, while anxiously looking around the space.  Luckily, we didn’t have to wait very long to be seated.  “This place is awesome!”  Leila squealed, as we settled in to our seats.  She was right; going on looks alone, the restaurant certainly was awesome.  After all, the space is the brainchild of parent design/concept firm, AvroKO.  Think:  exposed-brick walls, garage-door floor-to-ceiling “windows,” industrial lighting, copper and walnut-wood finishes, polished cement flooring, multiple dining rooms/nooks.

Photo: courtesy of Public's website.

With a decent-sized brunch menu, it took Leila and me quite some time to figure out what we wanted to order.  For those of you that think I’m indecisive, you ain’t seen NOTHIN’ yet.  She takes the cake!  Ultimately, we decided to order individual courses, with the exception of splitting a plate of the Coconut Pancakes.

After a wild night on the town, we decided that it would be smart to begin our meal with something healthy – natural – and nutritious.  Surely, fruit salad would fit the bill.

Tropical fruits – including mango and pineapple – plus red grapes and citrus segments, sat in a shallow bath of rosewater and their own sweet juices.  The dish was finished with a dollop of sweet tahini yogurt and a single sprig of mint.

I found this salad delightful and refreshing, but probably would not order it again or recommend it as a “must try,” unless you’re on a diet.

Per our server’s recommendation, I ordered the Turkish Eggs as my entree course.  Mounted atop a bowl of Greek yogurt and a pool of liquid kirmizi biber (a Turkish pepper) butter were two perfectly poached eggs.  Slices of crusty, grilled bread accompanied.

Honestly, the ingredients had me baffled and…nervous.  How were poached eggs – tangy Greek yogurt – and spicy butter supposed to marry?  Would this combination be the trinity of terror?

I cut a slice of the bread in half and topped it with equal amounts of egg, yogurt, and butter.  My hand shook a bit as I trepidatiously guided it toward my mouth.  Crunch.  Chew.  Savor.  Wow!  The tang of the yogurt took a backseat to the mild, smoky spice from the butter.  The creamy yolks dissolved in to the other components “like buttah,” allowing the firm egg whites to take a textural “center stage.”  The grilled bread proved to be the perfect dipping accessory.  Bravo!

To balance out the savories (Leila ordered the Venison Burger for her entree), we split an order of the Coconut Pancakes.  A thin drizzle of ginger-lime syrup acted as a pseudo glue, anchoring two golden, buttery, grilled Coconut Pancakes.  A dollop of house-made ricotta, mango wedges, a lime quarter, and toasted coconut shreds topped the ‘cakes.

I loved and appreciated that the pancakes, themselves, were laced with an ample amount of coconut nibs.  This created a dense and hearty bite/texture.  I was a bit perplexed by the addition of the ricotta cheese and felt that it did absolutely nothing for the dish.  I was hoping that there would have been more syrup – granted, I could have asked – as I found the ‘cakes to be lacking that special sweetness and moisture that traditionally accompanies (pancakes).  In terms of coconut flavor and texture, however, the pancakes were spot-on.

To conclude:  having never been to Public prior to this meal (embarrassing, I know), I walked away very impressed and anxious for a return visit.  The space, service, price and, most importantly, the food were all fantastic.  After 8-years, I very well could be the last girl in NYC to eat at Public!

P.S.  As we put on our jackets and grabbed our purses upon exiting, Leila exclaimed, “This is my favorite restaurant in NY!”  Progress.  I love it.

Big sister tested, lil’ sister approved.  🙂


Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle


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