Griffin’s offers blend of whimsy and comfort food
By Gordon Dritschilo
Staff Writer | May 27,2013
Albert J. Marro / Staff Photo
Lucas Wilson cooks at Griffin’s Publick House on Center Street in Rutland.
Griffin’s Publick House, its proprietors will tell you, is not a bar — not even a high-end one.
Co-owner Don Hubert Jr. said he was tired of owning a bar, which was why he shut down the Downtown Tavern and, after extensive renovations, opened the space as Rutland’s first gastropub.
Ever seen one of those episodes of “Top Chef” where they take junk food or fast food and make similarly structured dishes with much better ingredients? A gastropub does that with traditional bar food.
Griffin’s french fries are cooked in duck fat, unless they are served alongside a burger, in which case they are seasoned with truffle salt. Their poutine is made with a short rib ragout. Pizzas — referred to as “artisanal flatbreads” on the menu — come with toppings ranging from broccoli and wild mushrooms to Korean barbecue beef.
“This was a niche that wasn’t being filled,” he said. “It’s been a long time since this place has had good, locally produced food in a casual atmosphere.”
“Local” has, of course, become a leading trend in area restaurants. Numerous local menus boast about what area farm some of their ingredients come from, and Griffin’s is right around the corner from a restaurant whose entire concept was local food. The causal atmosphere, Hubert said, is what will set Griffin’s apart.
“I want it to be the sort of place you can come to if you have a softball team,” he said. “At the same time, I want it to be a place where doctors and lawyers will come. ... I want it to be a place professionals feel like they can come, have a drink or some food, and stay.”
Anyone passing by on Center Street will surely feel the kitchen window beckoning, as the action at the grill and wood oven is clearly visible. Inside, exposed brick combines with blacks and browns to give an old-world feeling. The liquor and draft beer selection is extensive.
Hubert also said Griffin’s boasts Rutland County’s only nitrous-driven draft wine system, which keeps wine away from its two mortal enemies, light and air, until it is served.
“You never get a bad glass of wine,” he said. “You never get a corked bottle.”
Chef de cuisine Brian Garvison, who came to Griffin’s from Burlington, resisted efforts to categorize his food.
“It’s an eclectic mix,” he said. “We’ve got comfort food, fine dining, some whimsical things. It’s done in a very non-pretentious way. People are going to try stuff that’s new.”
That whimsy has resulted in “hog wings” — pork shank prepared like Buffalo (or barbecue, or Jamaican jerk, or Thai curry) chicken wings — and an “apple pot pie” made with cheddar, bacon and gelato.
Plans include live music and a menu of “pre-Prohibition” drinks.
Also in the works is an iPad menu system co-owner Darwin Harder says will increase the information available at customers’ fingertips while enabling the restaurant to change the menu instantly without waiting for new copies from the printer. A smartphone app downloadable from the restaurant’s website will let customers at home peruse the menu and make reservations.