The Public House, the 2½-month-old tavern in the Albertsons shopping center on East Cheyenne Mountain Boulevard, could work as a pretty fair stand-in for Paddy's Pub, the center of anarchy in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Beyond the thick wooden bar off to one side and the high-tops scattered around some pool tables, the House is run by a coterie of youthful faces living the dream. Co-owners Matt and Haleigh McCartan are 28 and 23 years old, respectively, while chef Davis Smith, a family member, is 29.
"We're kind of crazy, huh?" jokes Haleigh in a phone interview.
Having sunk around $100,000 in renovations and upgrades into the former Spanky's Grill, the ownership is at least ambitious. The plan now is to serve Colorado products — like a tap full of Rocky Mountain brews, not to mention 25 more regional beers in bottles — to Colorado people.
What you get is an appealing space that's as engaging to middle-aged dinner-seekers as it is to late-night Colorado Avalanche fans, whose affiliation is shared by the bar. Ultimate Fighting Championship aficionados are likewise likely to find something relevant to their interests, while those just looking to drink something new should stick around on Tuesday nights, when pints are $3 and visiting brewers hawk swag and talk about their beer.
And at the risk of damning with faint praise, the food really is better than your average pub fare. Smith's education at Le Cordon Bleu and time spent in Las Vegas kitchens owned by Wolfgang Puck have informed a small menu seeking to make a handful of entrées consistently pop.
I'd put the fresh salad greens up against most anything that wasn't grown out back, especially with the kick-ass house lemon-vinaigrette. They undergird the grilled, peppery skewers of Red Bird Farms chicken found in the satay ($8) and become a (light) meal unto themselves when combined with shaved Pecorino, cucumbers and cherry tomatoes in the Public House Greens ($6).
Though fairly expensive for just two, the locally sourced bison sliders ($11) bring a delicious, pink juiciness to bear. The grilled onions, aioli and sharp cheddar are overwhelmed by cumin, but they're lovely little bites otherwise.
That combination of juiced-up mayonnaise, grilled onions and cheese on soft brioche appears again on the impressive Mountain Burger ($10.50, plus another $1.50 for thick, curly bacon), which is ultimately too much of a damn good thing. Looking back, my notes sound a little anxious: "intense," "punch to the gut," etc. Truffle aioli is oozing from every meaty bite, and there's just nothing to cut all that richness. Roasted to oily perfection, the crispy, purple fingerling potatoes don't help the problem either, delicious as they are.
The simple chicken-and-bacon Pikes Beak ($10.50) comes wearing cheddar and Caesar dressing inside an impressively soft, floured ciabatta roll; the Rough Rider Reuben ($11.50) pulls rye and Swiss, and swaps in sourdough and pepper-jack cheese, giving it a more accessible bite. (Plus, a dollar from each sale benefits a local veterans motorcycle club.)
The only real disappointment in the bunch — if you don't count the Pub House Wings ($9), which are totally acceptable, if not exciting — is the Olympic Pig pizza ($13). Its pre-made dough is just too reminiscent of frozen pizza, even if the prosciutto-goat-cheese combo is as righteous as you'd imagine.
But, then, it really can't be sunny all the time.