Photo by Sarah Senfeld.

Gainesville’s popular restaurants are usually hard to miss, sprinkled in the vibrant Midtown and downtown areas, making them fair game to crowds of college students and locals alike. But you aren’t too likely to stumble upon Public & General, located in the northeast side of Gainesville, after a long night out on the town. Perhaps it is precisely for this reason that this up-and-coming food joint has so much heart.

With its string lights hanging over the patio and its rustic ambiance, Public & General assumes the role of your friendly neighborhood tavern, complete with a makeshift play area loaded with toys for the tots. Even your four-legged friends are welcome as your dinner date while you enjoy the fresh air outside.

The menu, a testament to quality over quantity, consists of a diverse selection of dishes, ranging from salads and sandwiches to a chicken liver pate. If you want to try the acclaimed pub fare, don’t miss out on the signature dill fries with roasted tomato mayo or the crispy fried beets, some of the few menu items that stay anchored through Public & General’s daily menu rotation.

Ranging from $7 to $11, the sandwiches include the pork or brisket sandwich with seasonal greens, garlic, and provolone, as well as the saucy BBQ mushroom sandwich with salted cabbage and the option of kimchi for an extra dollar. Public & General also offers a cheese and charcuterie counter for those who want to build their own plates. Both the sizable portions and fresh ingredients sourced from local farms make the meals well worth the price.

Vegetarians everywhere can breathe a collective sigh of relief, as this restaurant  carries several veggie options, such as the aforementioned BBQ mushroom sandwich and the $4 to $6 seasonal greens and herbs salad with sherry vinaigrette. A majority of the side dishes are vegetarian as well.

Public & General co-owners Sean Atwater and William Thomas both boast an abundance of prior restaurant experience.

“It’s something I’ve been involved with since I was a teenager,” Atwater said. “If there’s anything I feel comfortable with, it’s definitely this industry.”

In addition to food, they offer a great tap selection for craft beer devotees, as well as an extensive variety of bottled beer and wine. These can be found in the restaurant’s market area, a grocery of sorts that features a counter for food orders to be enjoyed at home.

Atwater is optimistic about Public & General’s future. Just about a year after the restaurant’s opening, he said it was too early to tell how the restaurant has been received in Gainesville.

“We’ve barely gotten started,” he said.  “But we plan on improving aesthetics. We started with very little means. Now we’re just trying to expand our ideas.”

He said the rotating daily and seasonal menus let the owners experiment with works and what doesn’t.

Located east of Main Street on 16th Avenue, Public & General was not the first establishment to set its roots in this spacious, albeit isolated, venue. Its predecessor, The Brew Spot Cafe, once served as a small breakfast place. The quaint location was simply too out of the way for most of Gainesville’s breakfast enthusiasts.

Tucked away in a plaza of medical and office buildings, Public & General  isn’t looking for the Friday night crowds that normally roam around downtown. The obscurity of its venue is purposeful: The restaurant seeks to appeal to the community it belongs to, and at the same time builds a larger community of fans that extends beyond its location. There is unmistakable room for growth, and yet somehow, a budding vibrance inviting us to join them on that journey. 

Recipes courtesy of co-owner and chef, William Thomas.

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Public & General

1000 NE 16th Ave. | publicandgeneral.com

Closed Monday

Tuesday – Saturday

Noon to 10 p.m.

Sunday

11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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Champagne Sherry Vinaigrette

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Ingredients

  • ¾ cup champagne vinegar ¼ cup sherry vinegar 1
  • ¼ cup sherry vinegar 1
  • 1 tsp minced shallot ¼ cup of honey
  • 1 ¼ cup of honey
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • ½ tbs dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 ¾ cup canola oil
  • ½ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Instructions

In a blender mix everything except olive oil. Slowly drizzle in oil to emulsify. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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