It’s taken me a few days to process how to review my Public School 214 experience…not because it was bad, but because I’m conflicted. Firstly, the schtick of PS214 is very obviously a school theme…but I kept feeling like I was at a Magic Time Machine restaurant (a very theme-driven restaurant where waiters dress up as characters from film, TV, etc.). That may seem extreme, but at what point does a theme become a gimmick? Right down to the ruled-notebook printed beverage napkins, everything had some relation to the school theme. The finishes were on-trend in its industrial feel, but the Restoration Hardware greatness got muddied with hanging flashcards or memo book menus…there was just something off. Now, perhaps this is personal preference – which is fine, all reviews are subjective. It could have been the lackluster service we experienced. I would have gladly taken a Magic Time Machine waiter dressed up as Gaston from Beauty and the Beast over the waiter we had. Even sadder, he was training and being shadowed by a woman on her third day!
The way a restaurant overcomes the possibility of feeling gimmicky is to put out some awesome food – which, for the most part, they accomplished. On this occasion, my party decided on several of their starter items “for the table.” We weren’t in the mood for a big dish, and quite honestly, none of the main entrees grabbed my taste buds. But let’s not focus on that – let’s focus on how good their starters were.
Let’s start with my most favorite starter, the Chorizo Mac n Cheese. One of my pet peeves is mac n cheese where the noodles are so overcooked they become a starchy mass. PS214 used a non-traditional noodle (no elbows here), that maintained its bite and texture. The cheese sauce was rich, creamy, and didn’t overwhelm the noodles. The mac n cheese was speckled with kale (added nothing), pieces of chorizo, and topped with salt and vinegar potato chips. Why? Because, why not?
The table also ordered Bacon Cheddar Tots – which, I half expected to be tots topped with melted cheese and bacon. Instead, these tots were house made with bacon and cheddar incorporated into the actual tot. The tots were perfectly fried crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. I was particularly impressed with how light the tots were and the perfect condiment, sriracha ketchup. Lastly, we ordered the Speck and Eggs – a deviled egg dish with crispy prosciutto. I personally am over deviled eggs on a menu, call them whatever you want, but the table won in ordering them. They were good. Tasty. The prosciutto was a nice touch…but, unless I’m at a family BBQ in the middle of summer – you can save the deviled eggs.
Lastly, I have to talk about dessert because it really turned things around for me. The Nutella Cookie Sandwich was out of this world. It’s the kind of dessert you pick up to-go (with the Chorizo Mac n Cheese) and eat in the comfort of your own home…in sweatpants. In fact, I just may do just that this evening. Take vanilla bean ice cream, sandwich between two chocolate chunk cookies, top with Nutella with BACON BRITTLE, and you have the Nutella Cookie Sandwich. It’s the stuff dreams are made of.
My take on Public School 214 is it’s a great Happy Hour spot. The table enjoyed multiple Crushed Velvet cocktails. Great starters make for exceptional bar food and their bar area had a great vibe. It’s in a great West Village location with ample parking. I’d be interested in trying PS214 for lunch – because I feel like their concept could work for lunch really well.
(Final Rant: What is with the speckled plates popping up all over Dallas? I wrote about them in the Remedy post a few weeks earlier. They make no sense – especially in this school-themed environment. Give me metal trays. Hell, give me clean white plates. Just don’t give me speckled-stoneware-looking nonsense!)