AUSTIN PUBLIC

>> Sunday, May 18, 2014

70-28A Austin Street
Forest Hills, NY 11375
(718) 575-0700


When The Flying Pig opened a yearish ago, it was a gastropub. Duck confit, prosciutto-wrapped porkchops, soft-shelled crab; these dishes and a hundred different whiskeys adorned the menu. The Flying Pig was a higher end alternative to the pubby Banter, a lower-end alternative to the refined Jack & Nellie's, and a quieter alternative to the boisterous Station House. But it didn't catch. No longer a gastropub, Austin Public is now a straight-up pub.


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Although I read somewhere that the owners fancied up the seating, as near as I could tell, there was no discernible change to the interior save for the addition of some TVs that unfortunately seem stuck on ESPN, which decidedly removes any fancying up that might have occurred. The pig logo outside, of course, has been taken away. It was garish and ugly and I never thought I'd miss it, but the message-blinking LED display panel that took its spot over Austin Street proved me wrong. As for the menu, it's not exactly breaking any new ground. For better or worse, gone are the inventive dishes. The menu has been boiled down to the comfortable basics that you can find literally anywhere that serves beer. Hamburgers, macaroni and cheese, pot pies, chicken fingers.

Side note, don't bother looking at the menu on the website. It's so dramatically inaccurate that I have no choice but to assume that it's from a different restaurant.



Seeing that this was more than a mere name change, Pike and I made a point to schlep over and try it out. It was a Wednesday evening. The few people who were there when we arrived were all in the front and the rear area was virtually deserted. As time passed, more people filled up the tables, but it was by no means ever crowded and even at its height at the time that our meal ended, it was never "loud". Truth be told, as much as I love Station House, once the sun goes down, they crank the music way beyond what's remotely necessary. Hey, I'm not some old fart who can't stand them youngin's "music". I just don't much enjoy screaming bloody murder across the table so my friends can hear me. So, with the music at an acceptable volume, Pike was easily able to tell me about this weird non-date he had with a chick that he met on the way home from work who wound up trying to sell him a timeshare*. The, right after we finished dinner, trivia night kicked off, as it does every Wednesday. Pike headed home and Myna showed up. We moved to the bar, drank a few more beers, and did not win.

*Not really a timeshare. It was actually more ridiculous if you can believe it. But I adjusted the facts since she lives in FH and may very well read this blog. And if she does, I want to thank her. We had a good laugh.



So. The food. How was it, you ask? Good question. It wasn't bad. Like I said, it's normal bar food so don't go in with any expectation that this Austin Public will grab the borough's next Michelin star. I started with the Fried Calamari because, A) I like fried calamari, and, B) I wasn't in the mood for wings or chicken fingers. Pike thought that the marinara sauce was too sweet but it didn't bother me. I thought that, as far as deep-fried battered squid goes, I've had way worse and I would order this again. Pike ordered the Steamed Mussels, served in an herbal beer broth. They weren't bad. The broth was a little thin for my taste, but they were pretty good and he enjoyed them. So far so good.



When I was last at The Flying Pig, I ordered the cheeseburger. So did everyone else that I went with. They stunk. All of 'em. Overcooked and dry on a mediocre bun without even a decent house sauce to mask it all. I was almost embarrassed to have recommended the place. So when I order the Hamburger this time, I was more than a little worried. But I needed to know if the burger issue would be a recurring theme. Luckily it wasn't. I ordered my burger with Swiss cheese and a fried egg, medium rare. It came out exactly as I had hoped it would. A little bloody and greasy and with egg dripping onto the plate. The fries were fries. Pike ordered the Steak & Frites, a steak and fries. He cut me off a chunk and while the meat was tender and cooked the way he ordered it (medium rare), the kitchen salted the shit out of it and I therefore really can't recommend it. The next day, I returned alone and ordered the Shepherds Pie. I wanted to try at least one more dish before posting my thoughts. I really liked it. So often shepherds pies come out dry as a bone inside with their mashed potato top burned into a crust that requires a chainsaw to cut through. Not this one. Moist meat, a good amount of vegetables, and a soft fluffy top. I might get this again next time.



In the end, Austin Public wasn't bad. Whether it's an improvement is in the eye of the beholder. The changes are clearly designed to make Austin Public one of the stops on your next Forest Hills bar crawl and attract the neighborhood's ever-younger demographic. This may resurrect the restaurant and prevent it from becoming a bank or an urgent care clinic, but it comes at the expense of not adding anything distinguishing to our area's dining scene. I would have loved for the restaurant to have become a Brooklynesque gastrobar a la Huckleberry Bar or maybe a French restaurant, since we don't have one. Alas, for the time being, that is not to be. Maybe one day.

One thing's for sure. The tacky outdoor lamp-sign has got to go. Got. To. Go. Put it in a closet.  Give it to a casino. Sell it to some frat bar in Murray Hill and make it some other neighborhood's problem. Hell, toss it off a cliff for all I care. But take that shit down.

Appetizers average about $12. Entrees Average $22. Sandwiches average $13. Draught beer averages $7 per glass.

14 comments:

Anonymous,  May 18, 2014 at 1:54 PM  

Thanks for the review. It's as I suspected. I won't go in for one reason and one reason only...that sign. It's awful and it's a big FU to Austin Street. I know Queens isn't exactly known for its aesthetic, but come on.

Anonymous,  May 19, 2014 at 2:49 PM  

Couldn't care less about the sign, but this place just doesn't have it. I hear a rooftop deck may be coming, but even it that's true, i don't think this place will be around in a year. The space is too big.

Jon Parker May 19, 2014 at 3:09 PM  

A roof deck would be awesome. This area desperately needs restaurants with more and better outside seating. Brooklyn shouldn't have a monopoly. I'd still want the sign to die though.

Anonymous,  May 20, 2014 at 10:35 AM  

but without the sign you wouldn't know what classic rock cover band is playing their friday night. :P

Anonymous,  May 23, 2014 at 1:59 AM  

Is it called AUSTIN HOUSE or AUSTIN PUBLIC? Your review keeps changing up the names?

Jon Parker May 23, 2014 at 11:58 AM  

Oh jeez, that's humiliating. I made the correction, thanks!

Anonymous,  May 24, 2014 at 8:14 AM  

I agree with the kitchen laying on the salt. I had the wings and they were oddly really salty. That said, i'm rooting for this place, I love to see all bars do well and a roof top bar would be fantastic. Would be nice to have a Sutton Place (located Midtown East) type bar in Forest Hills. As for the sign, I think people are making a bigger deal out of it and to say you won't go in there because of it is bull shit. Grow up and support local commerce.

Jon Parker May 25, 2014 at 7:52 PM  

I don't think anyone said that they wouldn't go. But it is tacky and the foot traffic isn't likely to be enticed to go in because of it. Austin Street isn't exactly a spring break hotspot where people are cruising for the next great wet t-shirt contest.

Susan May 27, 2014 at 12:58 PM  

Well, the first "Anonymous" comment did say they wouldn't go due to the signage. To each, their own. I don't love the fire engine red paint color either, but it wouldn't keep me from enjoying a bar/restaurant.

With that said, being that comments are being posted about the over-abundance of salt, that is an issue for me. Additionally, when I dined their under it's former name, besides not loving my food, I found the restaurant to be over-the-top in regards to the noise level.

Seriously, two of us dining and we couldn't hear one another.

Not my personal cup of tea, although if there were out-door space that could potentially be a game changer.

Anonymous,  June 27, 2014 at 10:29 AM  

WHATS NEXT? I'M PANICKING OVER HERE!

Anonymous,  June 28, 2014 at 8:35 AM  

Went last night to grab a drink, Station House was packed so we decided to try Austin Public. The music was AWFUL. Really cheesy DJ. Felt like a really lame Long Island club, yuck!

Kevin June 30, 2014 at 1:57 PM  

We stopped in Friday night for our first visit since the facelift. We had drinks and left, place had the same strange vibe to it. As to the idea of a rooftop deck/lounge; seriously does anyone think they can relax when at ear level the express train to Port Jefferson just barreled past.

Anonymous,  July 11, 2014 at 10:17 AM  

is this blog defunct or youre posting something soon?

Jon Parker July 13, 2014 at 10:05 PM  

Fear not, the blog ain't dead. I've been extremely busy and dining out money doesn't grow on trees.

Also, anyone can feel free to email me at eateryrow@gmail.com or through Facebook rather than try to reach me through the comment section.

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