By Esther Allweiss Ingber

Above the bar, Mark Dancey’s large black-and-white portrait of Mick Jagger in a hoodie tipped me off that Public House would be more interesting than its plain-Jane name suggests.

Indeed, the pub food is creative and often surprising under the direction of Executive Chef Brandon Zarb. The young chef also oversees Imperial, a thriving Mexican restaurant/bar on Woodward Avenue in Ferndale. It’s a sister to Public House, a few blocks west of Woodward on Nine Mile Road.

Perry and Sharon LaVoisne, and Jeff and Suzanne King are partners in both ventures.

Public House opened in fall 2013, leaving little trace of Josephine Creperie & Bistro, the former tenant. Today, street-level windows bring light and people-watching. Walls are white subway tiles or dark and rough-surfaced. A custom-made black-painted bar with seating for 16 was distressed to look believably time-worn. More bar seats face the open kitchen. Otherwise, there’s booth seating on black lacquered benches.

Public House boasts a covered, heated patio with communal picnic tables on a black brick floor. Features include shades that lower for enclosure and a pull-down screen for showing movies. The coolest inclusion is the “canned ham”-shaped, red-and-white, restored 1958 Shasta camper. Twelve beer taps are inside it.

Public HouseThe specialty cocktails ($8) carry girls’ and boys’ names. My co-diner really liked her “Rita,” consisting of blanco tequila, Cointreau, Coco Lopez and lime with a cinnamon rim. “Ike,” including gin and rum, comes in a fierce tiki mug. There are monthly drink specials and boozy milkshakes, too.

With its “irregular rotating menu” of small plates, Public House has caught on with area foodies and experienced “substantial growth in the last year,” according to Dan Rico, the genial assistant general manager.

In addition to the extensive bar selections, I’d credit the talented cooking team headed by Chef Brandon and Chef de Cuisine Cortez Frazier.

Bestsellers are Nashville hot chicken, creamy deviled egg trio and classic burger, whose toppings include aged cheddar and pickled red onion. The burger comes on a slider-size roll, as did my tasty lobster bun with fresh vegetables and another recommendation, hazelnut-dusted cauliflower. The latter has Romesco spread (tomato-garlic-breadcrumbs), broccoli pesto and Manchego cheese. The house-made chips were brownish, not golden. Dislike.

An entree my friend recommended is Lake Superior whitefish, accompanied by corn succotash, whipped beet remoulade, walnut pesto and seared lemon. Smoked lamb ribs, a newer and popular entree, is accompanied by sweet chili. Many guests rave about Public House’s hushpuppies and beef kalbi (Korean short ribs).

I enjoyed eating the tangy, seasoned BBQ carrots, although my dining buddy suggested the dish with only carrots was too “one-note.” We loved our beautifully plated marinated beets — a medley of golden and red Detroit beets, salt-roasted redskin potato chunks, curled baby carrot, fennel, herbed yogurt on the bottom and toasted quinoa on top.

Creamy Deviled Egg Trio

Waffles, hash, sandwiches and sides are served at brunch, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. weekends (Public House opens at noon on other days). Smoked brisket hash sounds yum. The “Toasts” served at brunch feature main ingredients, such as smoked salmon or avocado.

Eclectic music played on a turntable adds to the room’s upscale hipster vibe. Guests share favorite records on Sunday’s “Bring Your Own Vinyl Night.” For more fun, there’s “Flavor of the Day” cotton candy or my preferred “Flavor of the Month” soft-serve ice cream. We enjoyed a delicate, not-too-sweet green tea.

Menu Takeover Day happens on the first Wednesday of each month, alternating between Public House and Imperial. Chef Brandon designs a special menu, available 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Having traveled recently to Vietnam, he delighted guests Aug. 3 with Vietnamese-themed selections. Menu Takeover Day returns to Public House on Oct. 5.

 Public House
241 W. Nine Mile Road
Ferndale, MI 48220
Phone: (248) 850-7420
$$½ out of $$$$$