The other night I somewhat spontaneously corralled a few friends for dinner. M and I were husbandless, his other half being off on a buying trip in England and mine tied up in a board meeting. By contrast, D’s husband was in town, and so a party of four coalesced. A quick trip to OpenTable revealed, unsurprisingly, that our first choice, Range, was fully booked, or at least until 9 pm, which was out of, well, range for us being a school night and whatnot. Perusing our options, I noticed that The Public had availability. The other half and I went there shortly after it opened and greatly enjoyed it, especially upon discovering that one of the chefs was an alumnus from the deli counter at our beloved Bi-Rite Market. We had since been back only for cocktails in the hip, if smallish, lounge space on the main floor. We booked the reservation, noting in the special requests field that we wanted the best table in the house and only cute waiters, please.
I adore the space at The Public. Formerly the irritatingly-named Wa-Ha-Ka! this "resto-lounge" occupies two floors in a quirky, vertical former industrial building. The main floor is the lounge, with tables up in the lofty space above. The tall, willowy hostess escorted us through the clusters of cockatilers mobbing the 250-square-foot lounge up to our table, where we were attended to by a tall, willowy waiter with a sing-song, almost squeaky voice. Being of small stature myself, I mused whether there was a sign in the back that stated you must be THIS TALL to work here. He confessed to being concerned that we would approve of his cuteness quotient, at which point D blushed and we decided thereon always to make silly or even impossible requests in the OpenTable form just to see whether they actually read them.
Despite the hipness of the space and the pleasantess of the service, the food did not stand up as I would have hoped. Mind you, D’s carrot-ginger-coconut milk soup was quite enjoyable, and normally fussy eater M practically licked the plate on his short ribs, which surprised us all, himself included. But D and I both had the pork chop, which was both oversized and overdone, accompanied with a sweet potato mash that was sweet yet insipid, though the collards with baby artichoke hearts and snap peas were right up my alley. The wine list is more than accessible — we ordered the most expensive bottle they had, a Hanna zinfandel at a whopping $40/bottle.
I’ll be back for cocktails, but wouldn’t necessarily rush back for dinner. Makes me wish they did small plates to accompany the cocktaily atmosphere they so carefully cultivate.
The Public Resto-Lounge
1489 Folsom Street at 11th