Public Kitchen & Bar

“It’s kind of like being in a fishbowl,” real estate broker-turned-restaurant-owner Carol Marks muses while squinting up at the ray of light flooding into the dining room of Public Kitchen & Bar in Lowertown. It may be a fishbowl in terms of its capacity to see and be seen, but it is certainly not restrictive in size or feel, and hidden underneath its expansive dining room is a lower-level cocktail lounge open from 4 p.m. to close every day with a menu of throwback drinks (think: Mint Juleps and Sidecars) and substantial small plates. Upstairs, Public seems to be going after power lunchers: skyway-walkers in search of a something more upscale than neighboring restaurants Barrio and the Bulldog, not quite so wallet-gutting as the St. Paul Grill, and less stuffy than Kincaid’s (though food-wise, some of that meat-and-potatoes sensibility has seeped in at Public, as Kincaid’s former chef Greg Johnson runs the kitchen here). While we had some minor quibbles with flavors, there is nothing here that is overworked, under-seasoned, or ill-conceived. Every sort of protein and general flavor preference is represented, cocktails are interesting but tend toward the lighter side, and the space is inviting and gorgeous. All in all, Public has a very strong restaurant skill set for power-lunching and people-watching.