The wending tale of Publicans, the Manhasset public house whose story stretches across decades and generations, has a new chapter: Earlier this month, it reopened with new ownership, a new chef and a new menu, but a vibe that still feels deeply local.
The restaurant-bar on Plandome Road first opened in 1948 as Dickens, became Publicans in 1977, operated as Edison's Ale House from 1999 until 2016 and became Publicans again; that most recent incarnation closed last fall. Publicans has a handful of new owners, among them Frank Cammarata Jr., who also co-owns Prato 850 in Commack, Ciao Baby in Massapequa Park and a few other restaurants. Behind the stick is executive chef Benjamin Diederiks, former sous chef at Osteria Leana in Oyster Bay and Swallow East in Montauk.
Cammarrata said the kitchen is making most everything from scratch, including the noodles for a raft of pasta dishes such as cacio e pepe and tagliatelle with truffle mushroom pesto, poached crab and basil. The rest of the menu hews to classic gastropub fare, with a noticeable nod to vegetarians.
Publican's all-American burger is a drippy double-patty construction draped with melted American cheese on a brichoe bun with a paper American flag jutting from the top. The kitchen makes its own tortillas for tacos, such as chicken tinga or Brussels sprouts with salsa negra, quesa fresco and pickled onions. Others veg-centric dishes: a kimchi-topped Beyond Burger; cauliflower florets cooked General-Tso's style, a bean-based vegan curry and a cauliflower steak with raisins and capers. Other appetizers include steamed Long Island Littleneck clams with pickled chilies, basil and bacon, and the menu culminates in a few entrees such as a pork chop over creamy polenta with apple agrodolce. Price-wise, tacos start at $7 and larger plates top out at $32, for a New York strip steak.
Publicans' long-ago camaraderie and characters were immortalized in J.R. Moehringer's 2005 memoir “The Tender Bar," and while the new owners have mostly kept the gastropub look introduced in 2017 (reclaimed wood, subway tile, et al.) the bar seems somewhat returned to its roots, with commuters mingling with longtime locals and a brisk trade in stout, lager and pilsner. (Among the cocktails are a gin fizz with basil and blueberries and a Bulleit Bourbon old fashioned with a garnish of applewood-smoked bacon).
Cammarrata said lunch and weekend brunch will eventually be added; for now Publicans opens at 4 p.m. daily at 550 Plandome Rd. in Manhasset. 516-627-7722. publicansmanhasset.com.