Public chef Luke Grill feels the zeel

photo of burger and fries at Public restaurant.
Photo: Public

By Cortney Erndt

Now in its fourth year, Public restaurant continues to add zest and zing to downtown Zeeland. And this year, chef Luke Grill is particularly looking forward to New Year’s Eve.

“It’s one of the only days of the year — Valentines Day, too — that we take reservations,” Grill said. “We create several special items and have a totally different menu for New Year’s Eve.” Chef Grill stepped out of the kitchen to answer a few of our questions.

What can guests expect on the seasonal winter menu?
We change our menu four times a year, with the seasons. Among other items still in the works, we will be adding the Orange Glazed Muscovy Duck Breast with Crispy Brussels Sprouts and also a Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder with Wild Mushroom Risotto. The winter menu starts mid-December.

I try to balance what customers want, what I think is seasonal or trending, and finally, what I can make that separates us from others in the area to make Public truly unique.

Photo of Luke Grill, chef at Public restaurant
Photo: Cortney Erndt
Public chef Luke Grill, Zeeland

So, what’s your favorite dish on the Public menu?
That’s like trying to pick your favorite child! I would say it’s a toss-up. The Angels on Horseback (almond-stuffed bacon wrapped date, roasted) was an original menu item and it’s my all-time favorite tailgate food. I used to make them when tailgating and people were obsessed. So, I thought, let’s try it at a restaurant. I am happy to report I got the same result.

Another favorite is the Parmesan Crusted Chicken Cutlet. It’s more the story than the dish. When we first opened, we had not one chicken dish on the menu. As you can guess, people were like, “What!?” So, I caved, although I’m not a big chicken fan. I thought, “If I am going to give them chicken, I want to give them a different kind of chicken.” The Chicken Cutlet was born. It has no starch and is topped with a cauliflower and squash salad. The dish is flavored with capers, pine nuts, lemon and has a real punchy zing that is unique. It’s our best-selling dish!

Why Zeeland?
It’s a great city and I thought it needed a great restaurant. I was astonished to find it didn’t have one when I arrived. I think Zeeland is really coming into it’s own. From new shops and restaurants to new festivals, it all helps our business.

I wanted to make Public feel like guests weren’t in Zeeland, but a big city. I knew if it looked too familiar, it wouldn’t work. I wanted to make people say, “This restaurant looks amazing. I can’t believe it’s in Zeeland, Michigan.”