In mid-December, restaurateur Martha Hoover opened Public Greens (900 E. 64th St., 317-964-0865), her newest addition to her Patachou Inc. empire, a modern and healthy take on cafeteria-style dining where ’90s rap music plays while customers peruse the floor-to-ceiling chalkboard at the entrance. The board displays a scribbled menu of sharable snacks, grains, greens, veggie small plates, and desserts that rotate every Friday. Gape at these dishes kept moderately warm behind a glass-covered candy bar-esque counter as you anxiously consider your options.
A local and organic menu might suggest a more back-to-the-farm feel, yet the modern photography of farmers on the wall is all that invites this culture in. The decor is rather mainstream: blown-up photography in clean black frames lines the walls above long bench seating. Ceilings expose white beams and heating ducts. The laidback, simple atmosphere and long business hours make it comfortable to sit and enjoy a drawn-out afternoon lunch.
Order a few plates for a meal, or several to share. Three-to-a-plate ravioli are toasted on the outside, creamy inside, and slathered with thick sage pesto. The Chicken 1 protein plate (thigh meat soaked in buttermilk, dredged through flour, and deep fried) is more flavorful than your everyday chicken tender, especially when dunked in the spicy local hot sauce.
The engaging, flannel-clad staff bouncing around the restaurant will gladly suggest their favorite items, from fresh-pressed juices to a lineup of gluten-free desserts that are not as bland as you might assume (though the gluten-free brownie we ate exploded into crumbs with every stab of the fork). Our suggestion: Finish with the moist coconut cake, a guaranteed home run.