As best as I can remember, my elementary school cafeteria didn't have chefs. We did have several hair-netted lunch ladies who served up delicacies such as rectangular sliced pizza (if said pizza was topped with ground beef and cheddar cheese, it was dubbed "Mexican" pizza), and a mysterious shepherd's pie knockoff called "potato turbate." Along with several classmates, I never ate the potato turbate after a social studies teacher once told his class about a toenail he found in his entree.
Thankfully, Public School 972, on the border of North Dallas and Addison, offers no such culinary horrors in their schoolhouse-vibe gastropub. PS 972 is the second local iteration of the California-based micro-chain; Public School 214 opened in the West Village in 2015. First announced just after the West Village opening, Public School 972 will finally open to the public on March 13, but we were invited to check out the new space a few days early while the kitchen and waitstaff iron out any last-minute kinks before the grand opening.
Students of Public School 214 will feel right at home at PS 972, as the schoolhouse-chic vibe is still strong in the new location. Globes and flashcards hang from the ceiling in different parts of the restaurant, while books, pencil sharpeners and typewriters are all part of the playful decor. Geometry nerds will note how the expansive three-sided bar bisects the dining space, while an alcove near the entrance holds a shuffleboard table and a pair of dartboards for the truants in your dining party.
The bar offers a long list of draft beers sure to satisfy cicerones in training, and the cocktail menu sports several hand-crafted gems. On the recommendation of our waiter, we tried the Morning in Oaxaca, a blend of mezcal tequila, orange juice and cold-brewed coffee. Take the goodness of espresso and orange juice together, with the added bonus of tequila, all without actually waking up in southern Mexico, and you've got a winner.
The full menu for PS 972 hasn't been released yet, but we expect many of the favorites from the West Village spot to migrate north. We enjoyed flash-fried goodness of the naked wings, which were served with a side of blue cheese dressing and Frank's Red Hot. The pan-seared salmon was expertly cooked and delightfully flaky. Served on a bed of zucchini and asparagus, it should be a hit with the low-carb crowd.
When we visited PS 214, we were underwhelmed by their overcooked burger, but there was no disappointment to be had at 972. The barbecue bison burger was cooked to a perfect medium, just as we ordered, and complemented with a thin layer of melted Emmental cheese, barbecue sauce and bib lettuce. For dessert, we shared a Nutella ice cream sandwich; two chocolate chunk cookies were smeared with the eponymous hazelnut spread, and the concoction was dusted with a pecan-bacon brittle which provided a salty balance to the sweet dessert.
Public School 972 promises an "education in the art of food and beer." We can't promise that a visit will turn you into a culinary Rhodes scholar, but the curriculum of chef-curated pub food and thoughtful cocktail and beer selection, liberally sprinkled with a vintage elementary school look, certainly has us looking forward to class being in session.
Public School 972, 14854 Montfort Dr.
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