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  • Pimento cheese queso from Hamilton Public House on North Clinton Street.

  • Hamilton Public House on North Clinton Street.

  • Corn chowder at Hamilton Public House on North Clinton Street.

  • The "Best Damn Pork Tenderloin" from Hamilton Public House on North Clinton Street.

  • Nashville hot chicken and pimento mashed potatoes from Hamilton Public House on North Clinton Street.

  • Amish Donut Bread Pudding at Hamilton Public House on North Clinton Street.

  • A big tub of cleaning solution left unattended in the men's restroom at Hamilton Public House on North Clinton Street.

  • Hamilton Public House on North Clinton Street.

  • A "medium-rare" pimento-stuffed burger from Hamilton Public House on North Clinton Street.

  • A mural inside Hamilton Public House on North Clinton Street.

  • The pork loin was way too thin inside the "Best Damn Pork Tenderloin" at Hamilton Public House on North Clinton Street.

  • Smoked pork belly Hamilton Public House on North Clinton Street.

  • Indiana pork and veal meatballs Hamilton Public House on North Clinton Street.

  • Some baseball memorabalia at Hamilton Public House on North Clinton Street.

  • Chocolate stout brownie at Hamilton Public House on North Clinton Street.

  • Indiana pork and veal meatballs Hamilton Public House on North Clinton Street.

  • Hamilton Public House on North Clinton Street.

  • Chocolate stout chili at Hamilton Public House on North Clinton Street.

Sunday, March 04, 2018 1:00 am

Baseball-themed restaurant has some hits

RYAN DUVALL | The Journal Gazette

Hamilton Public House

**

Out of a possible five

$$$

Nothing really stood out when I walked into Hamilton Public House, which took over the former Bar 145 building along North Clinton Street.

Except for a splash of baseball memorabilia and a mural with the words to the song “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” it looked just as it did as its chain-restaurant predecessor.

But there were some things on the menu that caught my eye. Figuring out what to order, however, was a chore as it had one of the most confusing menus in recent memory.

I thought I had it figured out when I saw the first baseball heading on the two-sided menu. “The Starting Lineup” had to be for appetizers, right? No. That is where the entrées were.

Appetizers were under “First Base,” which sort of made sense, so I figured maybe soup and salad were under “Second Base.” Well, there was no second base. There was a “Third Base,” but that was for sandwiches.

The soups were in the “Dugout,” and the salads were part of the “Grounds Crew.” Got it? I didn't.

After selecting my appetizers and flipping to the other side with the main courses, I noticed the “Shortstop” section. That was where the chicken wings were instead of with the appetizers where they belonged.

Want a burger? Well, you have to flip the menu back over to “The Bullpen,” tucked in with the appetizers, soups and salads.

There was one great appetizer that you must find. It was simply called queso, but it was not your basic dip. The Public House served a hot crock of oozing pimento cheese with fried biscuit rounds that were doughy and chewy, but crisp on the exterior. When slathered with that cheese, they were heavenly. My server suggested getting tortilla chips with it, too, because the six biscuits are usually not enough. More fried biscuits were only 50 cents so I went that way instead.

That cheese was so good that it made my burger choice easy as a pimento-stuffed one was offered. However, the cheese was on top of the patty, not stuffed inside. And it was nearly raw. My server questioned if the meat was undercooked, saying that is how their medium rare is made. I told her I'd like one medium, then, so I don't get sick.

When I got the second burger it was cooked fine, but the cheese was the only good part.

I wasn't done with the pimento cheese, however. I paired what proved to be the best entrée at Hamilton Public House with a side of pimento mashed potatoes and found a plate of food I will have again for sure.

The Nashville Hot Chicken had two juicy chicken breast pieces that were lightly breaded but still super-crispy even after being submerged in a spicy, bright red sauce. Pickled red onions helped cool things down a bit, but next time I might ask for some blue cheese dressing because I could have used something else to give my mouth a retreat. The mashed potatoes were spot on – thick and cheesy, but not too cheesy – and were great slathered on that chicken.

Though most of my appetizers failed, the soups impressed.

The Chocolate Stout Chili made with beer, chorizo, braised beef, beans, onions and a little dark chocolate had a smoky sweetness that was well offset by the chorizo. I loved the chocolate notes at the end of each spoonful, too.

The Indiana Corn Chowder was just as I expected with a lot of corn flavor, potatoes and the standard vegetable mirepoix.

The most disappointing appetizer was the Smoked Pork Belly glazed in bourbon and brown sugar. It was not cooked properly, so it was like rubbery, thick-cut bacon, and the glaze had little flavor.

The chicken wings had good flavor – the Tandoori dry rub was a unique treatment I would like to have again, and the House Whiskey BBQ was yummy. The wings, however, were tiny and since they were $1 each, I felt robbed.

The Indiana Meatballs had three cheese-covered meatballs that were plenty big but a little mushy. The house-made pomodoro sauce coating them was terribly salty with no other flavor to speak of. That sauce reared its ugly head on the pepperoni pizza. The big pepperoni slices were nice, but it is a shame they were wasted with that sauce on a floppy, soggy crust.

I loved the Yuengling beer batter on what the Public House dubbed the “Best Damn Pork Tenderloin,” and it had me eager to try the fish and chips next time. It puffed up beautifully when fried, had a hint of hoppy flavor, was nicely seasoned and super-crunchy.

But the pork was super-thin. There was easily five times as much batter as meat. The loin would need to be at least four times as thick to even enter the “Best Damn” conversation.

The service at the Public House was uneven with a few lags and one server who had no knowledge of the menu. Though its roots as Bar 145 make it attractively modern, the loud, bass-pumping music was hard to converse over and seemed unnecessary early in the afternoon.

There was also a housekeeping issue I could not ignore. When I went to wash my hands in the men's restroom, I had to maneuver around a giant vat holding some kind of lemon-scented cleaner left sitting on the sink counter that was strong enough to make my eyes water. About 45 minutes later, I saw an employee enter and come out of the restroom with the now-empty container.

At least there was a happy ending at Hamilton Public House as the desserts were fabulous.

The Amish Donut Bread Pudding excited me most, but the Chocolate Stout Brownie turned out to be best. Both of these desserts were huge, so sharing them is a must.

The bread pudding was a brick of diced-up doughnuts in just enough egg custard to allow them to brown a bit and have some crispy edges. The sticky bourbon sauce caramelized nicely on top and the interior was moist, gooey and decadent.

But the brownie had the best of both worlds. It was served warm, actually a little too hot, but it had those crunchy edges that some folks love while its interior was like molten lava cake.

Adding to my dessert joy was that the menu section they were listed under had pretty much the perfect name – “The Closers.”

Restaurant: Hamilton Public House

Address: 4910 N. Clinton St.

Phone: 420-0084

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday; noon to 11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Cuisine: American

Handicapped accessible: Yes

Alcohol: Full bar

Credit cards: Yes

Kid-friendly: Yes

Menu: Pork belly ($11), queso ($8), meatballs ($12), wings ($10 for 10; $15 for 15), chowder ($5), chili ($6), hot chicken ($15), pimento burger ($12), pizza ($12), tenderloin ($9), desserts ($8)

Rating breakdown: Food: * (3-star maximum); atmosphere: 1/2 (1 maximum), service: 1/2 (1 maximum)

Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email him at rduvall@jg.net; call at 461-8130. DuVall's past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette. net. You can follow him on Twitter @DiningOutDuVall.