Public Kitchen and Bar does upscale American standards in Lowertown

Categories: First Look

Hannah Sayle
Sandwiched between Barrio and the now-closed Bin Wine Bar, Public Kitchen and Bar in the historic Noyes & Cutler building is a polished, expansive brunch, lunch, and dinner spot -- with a downstairs lounge to boot. The upscale American eatery opened quietly in St. Paul's Lowertown last week.

See also:
Public Kitchen and Bar: More details about the upcoming Lowertown spot

Hannah Sayle
Filtered water, the Moonwalk, and the New Fashioned

Though a cozy, subterranean lounge area is available, during the day patrons will likely want to stay above ground, soaking in the ample natural light from the floor-to-ceiling windows that line the front of the dining room. A small sidewalk patio out front also affords a nice view of Mears Park. The space formerly housed Wood's Chocolate Factory, and so has all the trappings of a refurbished warehouse space -- from the warm, exposed wooden beams to the potentially less-than-ideal acoustics on a busy weekend night.

The brunch menu is a manageable size, with five appetizers and nine sweet or savory brunch items, as well as four selections from Public's lunch menu. One minor quibble: A small brunch cocktail list was noticeably absent, and though the waiter assured us that the full bar could make any mid-morning cocktail our hearts desired, we do like having a menu of a few thoughtfully selected boozy accompaniments to steer us in the right direction.

Our waiter recommended some items off the general cocktail menu, and we opted for the mimosa-esque Moonwalk with Grand Marnier, grapefruit, champagne, and rosewater. And, because we defy anyone to tell us we can't have whiskey in the morning, we added the New Fashioned, with Bulleit bourbon, aperol, and orange, cherry, and rhubarb bitters.

Public also filters its water in-house. Our waiter referred to it as a "water program," which admittedly made us snort, though we do appreciate the choice of sparkling or flat water.

Hannah Sayle
Fondue with toasted baguette and slices of apple

From the appetizer portion of the brunch menu -- which includes salads and jalapeño biscuits with honey butter -- the three-cheese fondue ($13) is a bit more like queso than traditional Swiss or Emmentaler fondue. Made with a mild, soft Taleggio, it comes topped with candied pecans and bacon and is just thin enough to make for a pretty messy meal. We passed over the spoon the fondue was served with and dipped the grilled baguette and apples directly into the cast iron pot, the way fondue is typically eaten. This made dealing with the dip somewhat easier -- and perhaps it's more a testament to our lack of fine motor skills than anything else -- but our table was still covered in drops of liquid cheese.

Hannah Sayle
The breakfast sandwich

Also from the brunch menu, the breakfast sandwich comes loaded with bourbon-glazed bacon, sausage, a fried egg, white cheddar, and Hollandaise, served on an English muffin with a side of breakfast potatoes. It's a lot for one sandwich, and definitely enough for even the heartiest appetite, especially at a very reasonable $10.

Hannah Sayle
The Noyes & Cutler Burger

The burger ($13), also served on the lunch, dinner, and lounge menus, is made with tenderloin and chuck ground in-house, and topped with white cheddar, bourbon-glazed bacon, jalapeño jam, garlic aioli, and a lightly dressed tomato and lettuce salad. It's juicy, a bit sweet, and has, in the words of our waiter, "a lot going on." The fries were a picture in contrast -- perfectly simple, crispy, dipped in batter and fried fresh.

The lunch menu is slightly larger and includes both sandwiches and some entrees, as well as a build-your-own burger option. The kitchen classes things up a bit at dinnertime, when you can get charcuterie, steamed mussels, bone-in short rib, and lobster linguini. Price points jump up a tick as well, from the $10 to $15 range at brunch to $10 to $20 at lunch and $15 to $30 at dinner.

Public Kitchen and Bar is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. and Saturday at Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Public Kitchen and Bar
229 E. 6th St., St. Paul

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