By Kirsten Telander

You know spring has sprung when you see ramps on a menu, am I right? O.K., so it’s not your every day ingredient, nor would you expect to find it on a menu of a restaurant called Public House 124 unless it was deep fried and served with ranch dressing. But there they were. Pickled ramps perched atop grilled gulf prawns, with a romesco sauce worthy if its Tarragona, Spain roots. I was trying to give up carbs, but it was absolutely necessary that I slop up the remaining sauce with a grilled baguette. You could be arrested in some countries for not. Back to the ramps. This onion, similar in appearance to a scallion, adds a sweet and sour tang to a dish, and it’s the kind of accouterments that makes the food at Public House un-pub-like.

Don’t get me wrong – you can still get a burger here. But it will be made with killer Blue Valley ground beef, bacon (don’t get me started – did you see last month’s blog?), cheddar and aioli – Public House served 824 of them in their opening month.

The truffle fries should be called yuppie crack…

Public House 124 is one of the more recent openings in a sea of restaurants that has made Walla Walla a top small town dining destination. The bar has been strategically positioned towards the front of the restaurant so that mourners of Matthew Price’s departure from the popular Vineyard Lounge can witness his resurrection in the glory of his new digs (which he owns with wife Christina and business partner Jim Sanders) right when they walk through the door. This isn’t just a place for locals -newcomers are welcomed right away (think the television sensation Cheers), but thankfully the interior of Public House is a cleaner, more modern rendition so that you don’t feel like you’re dining underground.

Food Plate 300x200With Matt’s reputation as a mastermind mixologist, Public House is on the short list, if not at the top, as a place to imbibe. A list of signature cocktails with all sorts of muddled things changes seasonally, and there are concoctions created for specific customers that aren’t on the menu. One such drink is the Parish, as I discovered the evening I dined at Public House: dry Gin, grapefruit juice, a splash of St. Germaine, and cucumber that wraps around the inside of the glass like a pretty flower arrangement. I didn’t know whether to stare at it or drink it. Local wines dominate a small, but thoughtfully selected wine list that provides enough variety for food pairing. Matt suggested the Seven Hills Winery Malbec with my prawn dish – perfection with the romesco.

Matt isn’t the only recognizable face with a pedigree in the joint. The open kitchen – a great place to sit – boasts Chef Chris, formerly of Whitehouse Crawford, and Chef David, of the Marc. The two collaborate on the eclectic menu, which includes updated touches to family recipes – one is the Kraut Krouga, a German dumpling filled with sweet onion, cabbage, Blue Valley ground beef, and horseradish crème fraiche. Like more and more restaurants in town, Public House is committed to the farm-to-table philosophy – much of the veggies, and eggs, come off of Chris’ small farm.

Check it out for yourself: Public House 124