The old saying that the three most important things about a piece of property are location, location, location is sometimes skewed when it comes to restaurant real estate.
One example is the corner space at 654 Peachtree St. Essentially situated in the same building as the Fabulous Fox, at the cusp of downtown and Midtown, it would seem to be a no-brainer spot to put a place offering decent food and drink to hungry lunch and theater crowds. But more than a few concepts have come and gone there. Even "Top Chef" finalist Richard Blais didn't make much of a mark during a brief stint a few years back.
Recently, though, Publik debuted with what finally could be a winning formula: upscale pub grub; a thoughtful beer, wine and cocktail list; a chic but comfy atmosphere; and, maybe most important these days, pretty reasonable prices.
Open and bright
The interior has been opened up and brightened up, taking advantage of vintage architectural details, including soaring windows and exposed brick walls. A long, inviting bar now dominates one side of the rectangular main dining room. Contemporary wood-topped tables, dangling art lights, and a huge blackboard with beer and cocktail offerings create a casually sophisticated tavern feel.
Tried and true
The owners of the nearby Italian restaurants Baraonda and Enoteca also own Publik. But with a few notable exceptions, the menu doesn't really reflect that. Most items are tried-and-true American, with a few Southern touches.
One thing that's immediately recognizable from Enoteca is the tasty charcuterie selection ($9). Generous portions of cacciatorini, domestic prosciutto and a pate of the day come with cornichons, spicy grain mustard and thick, crusty bread. A crunchy iceberg wedge ($7) with blue cheese and bacon crumbles is another sharable starter.
Sandwiches include a rich duck confit panini ($8) with fried leeks that's surprisingly good, and even better with the sweetish barbecue sauce on the side. The "classic burger" ($8.50) is just that — a hefty grilled beef patty, topped with lettuce and tomato, and served on a bakery bun with a side of french fries.
More substantial entrees range from ale-battered fish and chips ($14) and Guinness-braised short ribs ($16) to shrimp and grits with tasso ham gravy ($14) and seared salmon with succotash ($13).
The substantial beer list runs the gamut from the likes of Miller Lite and Peroni to fine American craft beers, such as Lagunitas IPA and Victory Prima Pils, and great Belgian offerings, such as Duvel and Orval. Classic cocktails include a Sazerac, and a simple take on the Penicillin, with blended scotch and honey ginger syrup.
Publik, 654 Peachtree St., 404-885-7505
Signature dish: classic burger
Entree prices: $7-$16
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-midnight Mondays-Thursdays; 11:30 a.m.-2:30 a.m. Fridays; 5 p.m.-2:30 a.m. Saturdays. Open some Sundays when there's a show at the Fox Theatre.
Credit cards: yes
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