Publik Draft House
If you’ve ever been to the Fox Theater, you’ve probably walked past Publik Draft House. I know I’ve passed by when on the hunt for a pre-show bite, but haven’t stopped in because the seemed packed and I could only see what looked like a crowded bar. So I was curious to see what lay in store when I had the opportunity to go to dinner there as part of a two-part progressive dinner with the Atlanta Food Bloggers’ Society.
I arrived at the appointed hour, but didn’t see any familiar faces when I walked through the door. Much to my surprise, the hostess directed me upstairs. I’d no idea that there was an upstairs and was pleased to see that it contained a seating area and a second small bar. Suddenly, the whole thing made much more sense to me as a place to eat, as well as drink.
While the ground floor has the modern feel of a renovated subway station due to the long narrow design and white tile backing the bar (I mean that in the best of ways), the second level is a mix of metal and wood I can only describe as rustic industrial. I liked it.
The folks at Publik Draft House started off the evening with a “Clemens Lemonade,” which was essentially a very tasty lemonade/sangria mash up. Served as a punch rather than individually made drinks, it set the tone for the family-style service of the rest of the dishes. However, our server told us that the focus of the main bar is on classic cocktails.
As we moved on to food, the servers brought out a platters of short rib sliders topped with pickled cabbage, scallop and Korean melon ceviche lettuce wraps and Southern bruschetta topped with pimento cheese, bacon jam and oven-roasted cherry tomatoes. The Southern bruschetta, tangy, spicy and bold, was the table favorite. Unfortunately for you, it is not on the the normal menu.
The sliders also completely overwhelmed the ceviche lettuce wraps. The wraps were light, crunchy and refreshing, but didn’t boast a lot of flavor. It seemed to me that it might make a nice bite if one were sitting outside on a hot day, but it didn’t make much sense with the other dishes we had. Now, normally I would chalk that up to bad ordering on my part, but this is what the restaurant chose to serve us, so I thought it bore mentioning. This dish appears on the menu occasionally as a special.
The short rib slider was the only dish that is a staple of Publik Draft House’s normal menu. It was juicy and the meat was flavorful, but I found it rather salty. The bread, while of good quality, had gotten a bit soggy and that could have been either from sitting a while or from the extra juices in the meat.
Overall, I enjoyed the atmosphere of the restaurant, but left without a good sense of the restaurant’s menu. The three dishes I sampled were all appetizers, didn’t make sense together and only one appears regularly on the menu. So I’m not sure how well my dining experience translates into that of the typical patron. I’m hoping to visit again, maybe before a show at the Fox, to get the true Publik Draft House experience and taste more of the menu standards.
Baraonda Ristorante and Bar
Upon finishing up at Publik Draft House, we paraded past the Fox Theater and a block down Peachtree St, to where a high top table in the bar lay in wait for us at Baraonda. Baraonda is an Italian restaurant and dinner 2.0 was consistent with that genre. While we sat in the bar, the other half of the restaurant is dining room tables and seating.
Funny story: when we headed down to Baraonda, we were all expecting just to have dessert there. Yeah, that was incorrect. We were feasting hobbit-style that night, with first and second dinners.
Dinner 2.0 started out with a Gorgonzola salad with greens, cheese, green apple, walnuts and dried cranberries. It was bright and lively, not earth shattering, but a nice light start to an enormous second dinner.
With the nice light salad came a spicy pizza. The Franzia Diavolo Pizza, to be exact. My slice didn’t have the super hot stuff on it, so, spice wuss that I am, I quite enjoyed it. Others at the table definitely got a lot more spice than I did, but everyone enjoyed the pizza.
In contrast to the spicy pizza, the veal sorrentino was a mild bite, nicely paired with the mozzarella and light tomato sauce. It was tasty, but the pastas that followed were the highlight of the meal.
The mushroom ravioli was tender, the sizable packets of goodness alternating between mushroom and cheese. I’m a little iffy about mushrooms, but I liked the ravioli. The Baraonda menu lists a “Daily Ravioli,” so the kind of ravioli rotates.
The Gigli Pasta was hands down my favorite dish of the evening. The pasta was made in house, perfectly al dente and so flavorful. It came tossed with wild boar sausage from Broken Arrow Ranch, rapini and Italian cherry tomatoes. I brought home a doggy bag filled with this pasta and then ate it all up the minute I got home. Delicious.
And finally, just in case we hadn’t eaten enough, the servers brought out platters of tiramisu. And, I have to say, it was a good tiramisu, which is rare.
So, overall, I would definitely go back to Baraonda, particularly for the pasta dishes. It would make an excellent date night or pre-theater dinner. Or business lunch, if you happen to work in midtown and are willing to risk getting caught sleeping off the food coma at your desk.
Publik Draft House • 654 Peachtree Street, Atlanta, GA 30308 • 404-885-7505 www.publikatl.com
Baraonda Ristorante and Bar • 710 Peachtree Street, Atlanta, GA 30308 • 404-879-9962 www.baraondaatlanta.com
This was a complementary progressive dinner for members of the Atlanta Food Bloggers’ Society. All words, images and opinions in this post are my own.