Fernbank Public House is bangin' ... right out of the gate
It was one of the most highly anticipated restaurant openings in recent memory. And I’m happy to report that the new Fernbank Public House on Bridge Road in South Hills absolutely lives up to the hype.
The building’s transformation has created a neighborhood gathering space where you can enjoy craft beer, signature cocktails and creative dishes inside or out. Service is friendly and efficient. Even better, the owners are good people – really good people – who are putting their all into the restaurant’s success.
Owned by former Lola’s manager Mike Medley and former Sam’s Uptown Café bartender Brian Henderson, Fernbank opened its doors a few months ago next door to Lola’s, just steps away from the Bridge Road Shops.
Like the traditional “public houses” of yore, Mike and Brian set out to create a welcoming space for all, where folks could meet over good food and drinks in a casual setting. They’ve definitely hipped-up the concept, though, with lots of fun, modern touches.
Colorful and funky art, light wood floors, tan walls, dark slate exposed beams and a tin ceiling give the place a decidedly modern feel. And its relatively small size – a nine-top bar with seven or eight tables – make it automatically cozy. A small patio out back offers a few more tables under twinkling lights.
And the food? Bangin’. A modest menu of apps, salads and sandwiches has produced many a good meal for me already.
After weeks driving by and seeing a packed house inside, we finally slipped in on a weeknight and scored the only table available at the time. We enjoyed two of Fernbank’s signature cocktails (a spiced maple old-fashioned and an elderberry spritz) while looking over the tempting options before us.
There are traditional (but elevated) apps like bacon and white cheddar fries, house pimento fries, mozzarella pearls with marinara, and chicken tenders or wings with various sauces.
We tried the intriguingly bright pink beet and herb hummus with sliced cucumber and crispy toast points and a plate of blistered shishito peppers, served with a house buttermilk dressing I wanted to drink from the cup.
For dinner, I took our server’s passionate recommendation and dug into a gloriously good, slow-cooked braised beef sandwich with white cheddar, pickled red onions and mayo on a toasted Charleston Bread baguette with au jus for dipping on the side.
She told us she eats one every single day she works – and I can see why!
We also had a juicy house-ground Rise & Shine burger topped with bacon, avocado, white cheddar, lettuce, tomato, mayo, onion and a perfectly fried egg.
On my next two visits, I crowd-sourced my selections and ordered the two sandwiches I’d heard folks raving about most.
Those were the fantastically tender, slow-roasted citrus mojo pork sandwich with chimichurri, Manchego cheese, roasted red pepper and mayo, plus The Goat burger.
That thing really does live up to its “greatest of all time” name by featuring a magical medley of warm goat cheese, tangy bacon jam, lettuce, tomato and onion atop a juicy house-ground burger.
And while everyone is going ga-ga over The Goat, and deservedly so, you don’t want to sleep on the Pimento Cheese & Bacon burger I devoured on my next visit. I can’t imagine anything better, but there are still several sandwiches and salads to make my way through here.
There’s a chili-lime roasted corn salad with piquillo peppers, red onion, white cheddar and spring mix with housemade buttermilk dressing; a grilled asparagus salad with toasted sunflower seeds, red onion and black cherry vinaigrette; a Caprese with fresh mozzarella and blistered tomatoes; and a bacon, tomato and avocado salad with that aforementioned buttermilk dressing.
No restaurant is perfect and Fernbank is no exception. We thought the beet hummus would’ve been better with a smidge more salt, garlic or other seasoning to wake it up a bit. Our crispy fries, while nicely double-fried, needed a fair sprinkling of salt as well.
I’ve heard a few comments about how “small” the dining room is and how “loud” it can get when full, but that’s one of the things I love about it.
To each his own.
Simply put, I adore this place. Fernbank has quickly become one of the hottest tables in town and I’m one of many new regulars who’ll keep coming back for more.
IF YOU GO: Fernbank Public House at 1034 Bridge Rd. in Charleston (next to Lola’s in South Hills) is open from 4-10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. For more information, call 304-346-9935 or visit the restaurant’s Facebook page.
Clarification on Lefty’s Place hours
I ended my praise by saying Lefty’s served pizza in Charleston only on Fridays and Saturdays. I said that because a post on their Facebook said, and I quote: “We’re open 12-10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.”
But the post didn’t clarify that those weren’t the ONLY days they were open and I failed to do that as well. Rest assured, you can get Lefty’s Place pizza in Charleston during all of the same hours Short Story on Summers Street is open, which is from 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and noon to 10 p.m. Friday-Sunday.
And you should, because it really is awesome!
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Steven Keith is a food writer and restaurant critic known as “The Food Guy” who writes a weekly column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail and has appeared in several state, regional and national culinary publications. Follow him online at www.wvfoodguy.com or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. He can be reached at 304-380-6096 or at email@example.com.