By MICHAEL AUSHENKER | Contributing Writer
Let’s get the gimmicky part out of the way: As the name suggests, the pub themes itself (very loosely) after a certain non-private education. Each Public School (there are several locations) assigns itself an area code in East Coast public school fashion.
Menus come printed up with covers resembling those familiar elementary school notebooks with that distinctive black and white tortoise-shell cover design. A few menu items reference (albeit vaguely and with a gourmet twist) elementary school-type comfort foods, such as tater tots, peanut butter and jelly, and brown bag fries.
Unlike a real public school cafeteria though, the cuisine served at Public School 310 is sophisticated and ultra-delicious, to the point where the joys of this restaurant have spread to other “school systems.”
Public School is the latest enterprise by Grill Concepts, parent company of the esteemed Grill on the Alley in Beverly Hills, and while the Culver City locale (opened in 2011) is the original, there are two others in Southern California (Public School 213 downtown, Public School 818 in Sherman Oaks) as well as several out of state.
A program, which most certainly would not be LAUSD-approved, is Public School’s craft cocktails program. On this short list of eight signature drinks, two of them (Light My Fire, Ryders on the Storm) are named after songs by The Doors (half of which membership, incidentally—“Light My Fire” author and guitarist Robby Krieger and drummer John Densmore—have major Pacific Palisades ties).
The almost citrus-y Ryders (Bulliet Rye, Liquor 43, stout syrup, ginger beer) goes down sweet and smooth, but the best move is the sparkly, effervescent Crushed Velvet (Tito’s Vodka, blackberries, blueberries, lavender, ginger beer), with its outstanding lingering lavender and ginger-y bite.
In Los Angeles, poke has been all the rage in the past three years, and the Ahi Tuna Poke appetizer (pickled cucumbers cilantro, green onions, passion fruit) tastes fresh and scrumptious, accompanied by airy taro chips. Other appetizers include Bacon Cheddar Tots, with a side of Sriracha ketchup.
Served cold, Thai Noodle Shrimp Salad, while plentiful, may have hit the weakest note here. Loaded with soba noodles, cucumber, mango, mint, cilantro, peanuts and sweet chili vinaigrette, there were definitely ample bulbous shrimp.
However, some of the other salad offerings here appear more daring, such as Roasted Chicken and Quinoa Salad or Roasted Beets & Goat Cheese Salad.
Prepare to get messy devouring your Colorado Lamb Burger, a terrific treat (ours: cooked medium-well) served on a brioche bun and dripping with Valbreso feta cheese. As a side, we ordered Loaded Mashed Potatoes, layered in a Tillamook white cheddar melt that comes loaded with truly succulent and flavorful morsels of high-end bacon lardons, plus horseradish crème fraiche.
Other burgers offered here include chicken and bison burgers, and the bold PB&J Burger, which boasts crunchy peanut butter, blackberry habanero jam and aforementioned bacon lardons.
Instead of veering into steak or chicken territory for our next entree, we went off-script this time to try the Beer Batter Fish N Chips. Light and fluffy cod, encased in the airiest of batter shell, arrives with not a hint of grease.
The accompanying French fries are also made naturally, but if you’re feeling more adventurous, go for the pitch-perfect Parmesan Truffle Fries, teeming with truffle aioli and chopped bits of roasted garlic; all topped with shards of Parmesan shavings—perfectly savory and flavorful.
Other plates on the menu include Bangers & Mash and Skirt Steak Tacos.
One of the best features here is atmosphere. Public School 310 has a terrific and spacious covered patio, perfect for that facetime vibe or laid-back Sunday morning pleasantness, in the heart of West LA’s most exciting district.
The restaurant’s interior—with its inviting mix of plush booths, exposed brick and myriad taps—certainly works, too. Yet if you want to exploit the fact that we live in Southern California, lunch or dine on the patio.
Only two choices for dessert, but no complaints as they were both spot on: a delicious berry tart officially called Blackberry Balsamic Cobbler, with cinnamon walnut crumble and vanilla ice cream, and Salted Caramel Cheesecake, a mélange of graham cracker, whipped cream and sea salt served in a mason jar.
Gastropubs and like-minded upscale taverns are nothing new to Southern California, but if they’re very well done, who cares. Don’t let this restaurant’s novelty factor detract from the fact that as far as gastropubs with sidewalk café space go, Public School 310, to paraphrase Rizzo from “Grease,” “rules the school.”