By Dr. Ink
The last time I set foot into this quaint house-turned-restaurant, located comfortably off Old Town’s main drag, was when it operated as 25 Forty Bistro. I remember fondly a wine-friendly menu of progressive-American cuisine served within tight, but charming quarters.
Much has changed since then.
The property’s latest incarnation is Old Town Public, which focuses largely on local and international beer, plus an assortment of hearty grub ranging from specialty tacos and quality burgers to zesty pizzas and meaty sandwiches.
Its large front porch remains intact, now under the canopy of big umbrellas. Inside, however, the space has been awkwardly reconfigured with only a couple of raised, communal banquettes, a few small tables, and an intimate bar with a flat screen TV perched over it. Hence, I took a spot on the lovely patio.
Draft beers are $2 off. They range normally from $6 to $8. Better yet, foods from the “starters” menu are half-price. And based on the grilled “bier bratwurst” I ordered, the kitchen doesn’t skimp on the portions.
The draft list included 12 beers on my visit, some Belgians, others IPAs and lagers. Although after the personable bartender allowed me to sample the Kiwi Fields sour ale by Acoustic Ales Brewing Experiment, I was sold.
Compared to Acoustic’s Strawberry Fields Sour Blonde I tried elsewhere in the past, this tasted a little fruitier, yet with a sourness that was more pleasantly biting. At times, it reminded me of kombucha, though with a desirably impairing after effect from the 6 percent alcohol content.
The bargain food choices range from Belgian-style mussels and Maryland crab cakes to various mac n’ cheese preparations and steak or veggie bruschetta. But the bratwurst called — two links split lengthwise with their flame-grilled finish and bedding of excellent, sautéed peppers, onions and tomatoes. Though sadly missing from the dish was a hunk of bread needed for mopping up the saucy medley afterwards.
Old Town Public offers an escape from the crowded establishments dotting nearby San Diego Avenue. In addition, free parking is a breeze before peak times in a public lot located a half-block away at the corner of Congress and Twiggs streets.
The price breaks apply to about a dozen rotating draft beers, a few of which featured various styles by Acoustic Ales Brewing Experiment. Others included a lemon grass lager by Drake’s Brewing Company, and some Belgians by Brewery Ommegang and Van Steenberge Brewery.
The ale-braised bratwurst sausages are winners. Served over sautéed peppers and onions, they’re lean and charry and sport a discernible beer flavor.
The bartender, who doubled as a waiter, enthusiastically offered me a couple of beer tastings before I decided on a favorite. And in the absence of a menu listing the happy-hour specials, he was quick to recite them when I first sat down.
Limited indoor seating includes a small bar near the rear of the restaurant. The patio, however, offers roomier options and includes a fire pit.