Public & General recently opened up in the former Brew Spot Café location at 1000 NE 16th Avenue, and really transformed what was a bizarre business in an already-odd location. The old dingy fluorescent classroom is now a rustic u-shaped wooden bar, with chalkboard menu counter-service and a small shop area mostly filled with beers and wines for now. One of the business owners was a former employee at The Top and a former sous chef at the old Dinner in Thornebrook Village, and has plans to start selling local specialty food products as well.
Their choice of venue is certainly an…ambitious one, located in an office park next to empty businesses and holistic medicine offices just north of the Duckpond area. It was one of the reasons why The Brew Spot Café failed. It’s just a strange spot that’s out of the way for much of Gainesville. But there’s something here. The owners have said they want to go for a neighborhood tavern feel, and they are doing a good job of it. The bar area is sizable, with seven beers on tap (I hate the word “craft”, but they’re “craft” beers), with plenty of wine and ample seating. In addition to what’s on tap, there are about 19 types of bottled beer. I particularly like the large patio area that is dog friendly. For anyone who lives on the east side of town, this is a great place to come grab a drink without huge crowds, especially if you want to bring your four-legged friends.
The menu is a small one, with a couple sandwiches, salads, cheese plates, some sides, and a rotating chalkboard menu. There’s a Pork Sandwich with seasonal greens, garlic, and sharp provolone for $9 and a Brisket Sandwich with the same toppings for $11. Both sandwiches are reminiscent of Philadelphia Style Roast Pork sandwiches. There’s a juicy and well-seasoned simple burger with American cheese, pickles, lettuce, and onion for $6, and a BBQ Mushroom Sandwich with salted cabbage or kimchi toppings for $7. The salads include seasonal greens and herbs, roasted cabbage salad, and a warm pasta salad. I thought the Brisket Sandwich was very good topped with fresh greens, garlic, and very juicy meat. $9 is expensive for a sandwich, but this was a sizable portion piled with plenty of meat and good quality greens. The burger was equally as good. The menu is short, simple, and done well.
A good neighborhood tavern should have some really good food to munch on, good beers, and a relaxed casual setting. What’s best about Public & General is the pub fare. Fresh cut fries served with house-made mayo or served with sprigs of dill and a side of roasted tomato mayo are really tasty. Fried beets with horseradish mayo, fried turnips with honey herb vinegar, and chicken wings tossed in a Dijon buffalo sauce are all perfect with a pint. If beer isn’t your thing, you could order a glass of wine and share a bowl of steamed clams in a white wine caper sauce. There are build-your-own cheese and charcuterie plates available as well, though I’d like to see some house-made charcuterie versus the same Columbus brand you find at Trader Joe’s.
In any case, while the place may be out of the way for folks like me who live on the west side of town, if you’re in the neighborhood, it’s definitely worth visiting. Definitely no excuse if you live on the east side of town or downtown. Bring your dog here, drink wine, buy wine, eat sandwiches, enjoy good beer, be merry. It’s the exact kind of neighborhood feel that One Love Café tried to go for, without actually being terrible. There’s ample indoor seating for when it’s scorching hot or pouring rain, the food is actually good, an actual good beer and wine selection, and soon local artisanal goods for sale. The location is odd, but I get it now. Where its predecessor made you feel like you went out of the way for a strange classroom experience, Public & General is hidden amongst office buildings on the edge of Gainesville’s Duckpond because it’s not for the masses. Hidden in place sight, but it’s for the locals and exactly what they call themselves; for the neighborhood. It’ll do just fine.