Public Eat + Drink: 34 Holden St. North Adams. Phone: 413-664-4444.
Recipe for Success: This well-maintained local restaurant is no more than a five-minute walk from the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. Priding itself on "casual, inventive American food with an emphasis on freshness, flavor and in-house preparation," Public's menu features many classic items traditionally found in pubs — burgers and fries included — albeit done very well, and as a result, what some might consider a tad more expensive.
However, Public has much more to offer than just pub food, with menu items ranging from a $17 cheeseboard that includes cherry chutney, eggplant puree, house-made spicy pickles, and salted Marcona almonds, to a selection of four flatbreads, and an extensive craft beer, wine and cocktail list; to a $21 pan-seared cod, a $25 10-ounce grilled strip steak and even a plate of mussels.
This hotspot has been around since 2011, and those who are familiar with its sister restaurant, District Kitchen & Bar in Pittsfield, will notice some similarities.
What we can't get enough of: There's two things that really stick out from my many visits to Public: The atmosphere, which is that of a small, intimate setting, perfect for dates or a meal with a family member or friend, and the food, which is some of the best I've had in town, but not something I can afford to eat every day. It's very easy to spend upward of $20 per meal at this hotspot, but it's not money I regret spending. It's great to bring someone you care about out for a special occasion.
The restaurant keeps a keen eye on capacity, so on busy nights, such as Fridays and the weekends, be sure to make a reservation (I once waited an hour for seating during one of those nights), but as a result, Public never feels crowded or cramped. The atmospheric lighting, small attention to detail and friendly service complement the cozy feel of the place.
On my most recent visit, I ordered the PEI Mussels ($13.95), which are cooked with fennel sausage, kale and tomato butter, served with grilled ciabatta, and a cocktail I couldn't resist as a journalist, titled "Fake News," consisting of Berkshire Mountain Distillery bourbon, Vya sweet vermouth, dry curacao and Angostura bitters. The meal was delightful, although out of my comfort zone, with each ingredient for the mussels clearly picked to match the flavor profile of the meat, and the drink served as a sweet complement to the mussels. Previously, I've ordered the Mac + Cheese (cooked with pancetta, smoked Gouda and roasted tomato) and their Public Burger (served with bacon, caramelized onion and roasted jalapeno mayo), which I also love. Be warned of portion sizes — both my PEI Mussels and Mac + Cheese meals were big enough to feed two people. Depending on what you buy, you might be able to take some of it home as leftovers.