The Public Kitchen and Bar
1 W Liberty Street, Savannah GA 31401 (map); 912-200-4045; thepublickitchen.com
Cooking method: Grilled
Short Order: A tasty burger with potential (and assembly issues)
Want Fries With That? Kettle chips are your only potato-based option, but upgrade to a salad instead
Price: Savannah Philly, $13
Bread-to-meat ratio is something we mention often on AHT. It's crucial to a burger's success, and I don't think you can get there with a pretzel bun. That, in a nutshell, is the issue with the burger at The Public Kitchen in Savannah. Unfortunately, it was insurmountable, causing me to eat this burger with a knife and fork. I'll get there in a minute; let me first back up for a bit and set the scene.
The Public has a lot going for it, including a great location in Savannah's Historic District, and a cool aesthetic that dips a toe into hipster terrain but isn't alienating. Two big checkmarks there. Burgers play a major role in the menu. There are five options, ranging from the super simple "Danny's burger" (topped only with LTO, mustard, and ketchup) to a quinoa burger for vegetarians.
My Savannah Philly ($13) burger had a lot of things that went right. The enormous grilled patty is made from all natural, free-range Angus sourced from D. C. Durrence Farms in Glennville, Georgia, heavily seasoned with salt and plenty of pepper. It's topped with caramelized onions and mushrooms and a bubbly slice of melted provolone, and underneath rests the most flavorful slice of tomato I've encountered in over three years of reviewing burgers for AHT. There's also a meticulous swirl of tangy sriracha aioli on the top bun. The menu says burgers come medium-well by default, but I was able to get mine cooked medium-rare, no problem.
Served open-faced, it looked striking in the dim lighting and even better with the top bun in place. Little did I know, that bun was about to ruin everything.
After cutting it in half, unhinging my jaw, and going in for the first bite, the burger went to hell in a handbasket, express delivery. The bottom bun split in two, that perfect slice of tomato jetted out of the back of the burger, and my fingers were instantly smeared with aioli. I had two options: cup the burger with both hands and shove it directly into my mouth, or put it down and attempt to re-crown it. I went with option two.
It did not work. The thick patty, along with the meaty slices of tomato, and enough aioli to lubricate the entire burger from top to bottom, meant the only workable bun would be something that would squish easily, snugly encasing the burger so taking a composed bite was possible.
With its dense, chewy texture and hard outer crust, the pretzel bun was not up for the task. As served, eating this burger requires maintaining a perfect vice-like grip at all times, which just wasn't possible. As Lee mentioned in his review of Wendy's new pretzel pub chicken sandwich, having to re-crown a sandwich multiple times is a "momentum-killer." I only attempted it once before fork-and-knifing the rest of the burger.
Burgers come with your choice of pasta salad or kettle chips. I went with the chips, but they weren't nearly as good as I was hoping. These tasted like a better-than-average commercial brand, not fresh-made. Considering how tasty the salad I also sampled was, this is one of the rare occasions I'd recommend greens instead of starch.
All told, the Savannah Philly burger at The Public Kitchen and Bar has promise—the beef patty was rich with deep, beefy flavors and the vegetable roughage was exceptional—but that pretzel bun has got to go.
About the author: Erin Jackson is a food writer and photographer who is obsessed with discovering the best eats in San Diego. You can find all of her discoveries on her San Diego food blog EJeats.com. On Twitter, she's @ErinJax