Try some terrific bar food at the ballpark 

After an eight-year run, Acme Chophouse, the groundbreaking steakhouse attached to AT&T Park, closed, and a couple of months later, it reopened as Public House, a pub with 22 beers on tap, two in cask, 24 in bottle, $200,000 worth of mounted flat-screen televisions, each with a DirecTV hook up, and a pared-down menu of bar food made with good ingredients.

Yes, good ingredients — which is the thematic link between the old place, San Francisco’s first sustainably sourced steakhouse, and this new sports bar.

Chef/restaurateur Traci Des Jardins and her longtime chef Thom Fox continue to run the kitchen with the same commitment to local ingredients, but at Public House they have widened their outreach to include artisanal products, such as 4,505 Meats and Fatted Calf sausages, Anthony’s Cookies and Humphry Slocombe ice cream — a baseball concession with conscience.

The truly great piece of food at Public House is Thom’s Cheesesteak Sandwich ($12), one of the best sandwiches in town, period. He uses grass-fed Marin Sun Farms top round, sliced thin and cooked rare on a griddle so it stays tender and juicy.

This clean but big-flavored beef is piled on a soft bun and topped with caramelized onions and peppers. Buttery cheese from Utah’s Beehive creamery melts on top. Each dreamy bite goes with beer, red wine, ice hockey, basketball and baseball.

Some of the finest dishes on the menu are holdovers from the Acme Chophouse menu at reduced prices. Ice Berg Wedge ($7), two huge hunks of stunningly crisp head lettuce with tons of crumbled blue cheese, a pool of creamy dressing on the plate and a tart vinaigrette and bits of smoky bacon spooned on top, is a model American salad, so big it has to be split.

Having salad for dinner at a sports bar could brand you as effete. Not here. The Public House chopped salad ($8) is a hearty meal in a flat bowl: big hunks of warm, astoundingly juicy chicken breast, crisp fried chickpeas, cubes  of peeled cucumber and avocado, tiny, ripe, Sweet 100 tomatoes painstakingly cut in half, pristine romaine and crumbled, distinctively smoky Black Pig bacon, all dressed in cumin-scented, paprika-tinted vinaigrette. It is lively, satisfying, unusual and a bargain.

Let’s talk strategy. If you go on a game day, expect a madhouse. The soaring front section with a long full bar on one side and a short beer bar on the other will almost be impassible.

If you can work your way to the dining area on the other side of a wall of beer kegs, grab any seat you find, at long communal tables or smaller ones. Be ready when a waiter speaks to you. You will see him once if you’re lucky and that’s it. Order all food and drink at one time and hope it will all come.

Better yet, go to Public House when the Giants are playing away. Then you can watch the game in the aura of the park, feel connected to the action, and still be well served.

Then you can throw yourself into a ballpark-style eating and beer drinking frenzy for a full nine innings, and come out the other side without heartburn (and this season, without heartbreak.)

The Public House version of junk food isn’t junk at all.  

Patricia Unterman is author of the second edition of the “San Francisco Food Lovers’ Pocket Guide.” Contact her at pattiu@concentric.net.


Public House

Location: 24 Willie Mays Plaza (at AT&T Park), San Francisco
Contact: (415) 644-0240; www.publichousesf.com
Hours: Kitchen open 4 to 11 p.m. daily; lunch service game days; bar open noon to midnight
Price range: $2 to $12
Recommended dishes: Chopped salad, wedge salad; cheesesteak; onion rings
Credit cards: All major
Reservations: Not accepted

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Patricia Unterman

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