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Feb 26, 2008 07:35 AM

Publick House - uncharacteristically bad experience

Let me preface this by saying that I love the gastropub concept and am a beer aficionado. IMO, PH is the best Boston has to offer in this genre and I generally consider it a step-up from Deep Ellum for both beer and food. Normally I enjoy myself at PH and don’t mind the fact that the menu is often over-reaching. I mostly stick to the basics - fish and chips, mac n cheese, sandwiches- after having been disappointed on a number of occasions by some of the more creative fare. That being said, would I go there just for the food? No. For the beer? Quite possibly.

As per usual, It was a jam-packed weekend night but we eventually scored a two-top after about a 30 minute wait. We started out with a couple excellent brews by Southern Tier and Atomium, as well as an order of the monk’s frites. The fries were a disappointment to say the least and certainly not worth the $6.50 price tag. We received a cone of soggy fried potato bits that had clearly been sitting at the bottom of a bin. Assuming these are double-fried in the traditional fashion, I would expect a fresh second fry. I’ll chalk this up to being busy, but it’s still no excuse. As a consolation, the dipping sauces were tasty.

Friend got the mac n cheese w/ bacon. Dry as a bone, and nearly inedible. Having gotten this in the past we were shocked by how dry it was. It must have been sitting in the oven for 10 minutes longer than was needed to crisp the top. To add insult to injury (well not really), it arrived with sausage instead of the requested bacon.

As for myself, I decided to take a shot on the cassoulet. Having had some of the best versions France has to offer I knew I was taking a risk. I’m all for creative alternatives to traditional recipes but when both the idea and the execution are faulty, the dish is usually a disaster. And, sadly, it was. I received a large bowl containing what looked like kidney bean soup with a piece of pork tenderloin (with cheese melted atop) sitting in the middle. Had I ordered a bowl of bean soup, I might have been satisfied (minus the pork, of course). The pork really did confuse me….not only was it overcooked (roasted and then re-heated in the “cassoulet” liquid I presume?) but it had an indistinguishable hunk of melted cheddar atop. I blame myself for ordering the dish; I really should have known better.

Of course, bad experience aside, I will still regularly go to PH for my beer fix. If there were ever a time to send food back, this was it. I do, however, wish the chef would reign in some of his creativity and produce a menu that’s more in his (and his kitchen staff’s) wheelhouse.

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  1. I had a similar experience in Nov 2007 regarding the frites. This is a Belgian beer bar so I would expect only great moules et frites! Here's the relevant excerpt from my post:

    Highly disappointed in the frites, which, considering that they are a Belgian beer bar, should be fantastic, double fried and all that (we had great ones recently at Philly's Eulogy). The cone that comes with the moules is laughably small. They were clearly old fries that were heated up. Hard and sad. We ordered an additional full order and they were slightly better - at least fresher. We mentioned it to the bar manager (in a good natured way - hell, these are french fries we're talking about). Dipping sauces were adequate.

    2 Replies
    1. re: digga

      I don't know why they mess around with those micro "frites" when the fries they serve with the sandwiches are much closer to the real deal. I guess if Monk's is doing it, it must be authentic <eye roll>. And the little dixie cup of fries? why bother - I would rather have an extra hunk of bread.

      1. re: digga

        I'm certainly glad I'm not the only one that did not enjoy the mac. I got mine with andouille- but the whole dish was extremely dry, and not very cheesy. If that is not the way it usually comes, then perhaps I should try it again?

      2. Sounds like a dreadful experience, too bad as I also like the PH. Agree with the comments regarding the fries, would it be so difficult to do right and at a decent price? Basics like that, esp at a Belgian beer pub, should be outstanding and would be a big draw.

        1. There are people (like me) who go just for the food. I've loved everything I've had, but I haven't had any of the more "creative" dishes, as you put it. Fries with my sandwiches have always been fantastic - although the last few get gross because they've cooled too much.

          1. I agree with Jackal. Every time I've had the frites at PH, they are a disappointment. But the bigger problem, which Jackal called out, is that the kitchen over-reaches. I'm not confident the chef is skilled enough to know what he's producing, and certainly the cooking staff can't execute on his zany recipes.

            Bottom line is that the food at PH is too hyped.

            Love the beer, love the basics (except the frites). But the duck, cassoulet, etc...ripoff and inedible.

            2 Replies
            1. re: fecalface

              I thought the seafood waterzooi was great, scallops mussels shrimp and fish - enough for two servings.

              1. re: steinpilz

                The menu looks great there, but this was the first thing I ever tried, and I have been unable to bring myself to order anything else yet!