With St. Patrick's Day around the corner, we decided to try the latest pub to try to survive in Fresno: The Public House in Granite Park (on Cedar between Dakota and Ashlan). As it turned out, we had occasion to visit The Public House twice in one week, which gave us a good opportunity to confirm or modify our initial impression.
The first aspect of The Public House to make an impression is its appearance. With most of the furnishings and the entire bar having been imported from Ireland, one would guess that The Public House would feel authentically Irish. However, that authenticity is diminished in the dining area, which is painted to look somewhat like a cave (or, perhaps, the Newgrange mound) that's decorated with Celtic symbols. Even the bar area and its assorted bric-a-brac seems to be more calculated than authentic. We eventually came to the conclusion that if Walt Disney would've built an Irish pub, he'd have built The Public House.
The true test of any Irish pub is if they can pour a good pint of Guinness. When it comes to the Guinness, The Public House falls short. The beer is bitter, like it is in most American bars where Guinness is served. They don't even pour the shamrock into the foam. At $5.95 a pint, the Guinness is a real disappointment (further proof that the only good Guinness is in Ireland).
This board isn't an interior decorating or a beer lovers forum...you want to know about the food. Here again, there's room for serious improvement. First off, there are plenty of options on the menu: sandwiches/burgers, appetizers, small plate dishes, and full meals. Prices range from $6.95 to $15.95. Under the heading of "Pub Food", The Public House lists a Corned Beef Sandwich, Fish & Chips, and Bangers & Mash. But, there is no Shepherd's Pie...what self-respecting pub doesn't have Shepherd's Pie?! The first time we were there, we had Chef Kevin's Steak Sandwich ($9.95) and the Blue Burger ($9.45). The steak sandwich was advertised as "tender steak with cheese and onions on a baguette." While the steak was tender and well prepared, but the cheese was barely present and the onions were no where to be found. The burger, which was decorated with blue cheese and bacon, was solid but unspectactular. On the other occasion, we had the Cheddar Chicken sandwich ($6.95). It's advertised as "shredded chicken with cheddar." That sounds better than "pieces of chicken embedded in a ball of cheese between two pieces of bread." We also had the Bangers & Mash ($11.95), which consisted of two pieces of sausage on a bed of mashed potatoes and garnished with fried onion strips. As was the case with the burger, it was solid, but unspectacular. Finally, we had the cheese plate, which contained several different cheeses from California and Ireland. It wasn't bad; but, it wasn't worth the $13.95 we paid.
So, if the decoration is Disney-like, the food is mediocre, and there isn't a good pint of Guinness anywhere on the premises, is there anything worth merit at The Public House? The answer to that question is an unequivocal yes. The service is nothing short of superb. On both occasions, we were treated to extremely attentive, extremely helpful service. We'd even go so far as to say that it's some of the best service we've had at any restaurant in Fresno.
We realize that the main business of The Public House is to overcharge Fresno residents for alcohol. But, if they want to cover their massive overhead once the "newness" factor wears off, they need to make sure that all elements of the establishment are top-notch. They've succeded in making the service top-notch...now, they need to focus on improving the food.