After a two-month closure, the Newcastle Publick House will reopen Thursday, April 1 with a new menu, a new management structure, and a rearranged and rejuvenated dining room.
Owners Alex and Rachel Nevens decided to close the restaurant for a winter break Feb. 1. Since then, they have been hard at work to spruce up the Newcastle mainstay.
“We really wanted to get past this year and come back with a fresh attitude,” Rachel Nevens said.
“It’s really a rebirth with attitude,” Alex Nevens added.
The closure provided the time needed to catch up on some of the items that “fell by the wayside in the past 12 years,” Alex Nevens said. The walls of the pub were painted, new lighting was installed, and the kitchen was reconfigured to maximize efficiency.
The dining room was also rearranged, with large booths removed.
“It really allowed us to open up the space and move from the hodgepodge we had to a better flow,” Rachel Nevens said.
Another change was a shift in the management structure at the Publick House and Oysterhead Pizza Co., which the couple also owns. Nick Krunkkala, head chef at Oysterhead Pizza Co., is now the executive chef and general manager at both restaurants, while longtime Publick House employees Trish Almodovar and Joshua Urey are now head chefs and kitchen managers at the Publick House.
Krunkkala oversees both restaurants and develop the menus with input from Almodovar and Urey, who run day-to-day operations in the Publick House kitchen.
Developed by Krunkkala with input from Almodovar and Urey, the new menu will offer modern, Midcoast twists on classic pub food with a focus on local produce and shellfish, Krunkkala said. Customer favorites like Angry Al’s oysters, the haddock Rachel, and classic burgers remain on the menu, joined by additions like oysters and grits and a seafood pot pie, as well as new vegan offerings.
“I think the new menu will open people’s eyes to what we have here,” Almodovar said. “We have a lot of vegan people in this small town, and I know it’s hard for me to go out locally because I’m vegan. With what we’re doing, we’re putting all types of eaters first.”
Krunkkala also focused on creating a varied menu of small plates to allow diners to try different tastes without having to commit to one entree.
“The pub has been in town for a long time, it’s been a staple, and we’re really excited to bring some fresh ideas and get it reopened,” Krunkkala said.
Even after the Publick House reopens April 1, there are other projects to be completed, Alex Nevens said. With the interior work almost complete and the weather warming up, attention will soon turn to the outdoor dining space. Alex and Rachel Nevens hope to reopen the Oysterhead Lounge above the restaurant soon, depending on guidance from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Right now, however, the focus is on reopening and welcoming customers back.
“We have a lot of good stuff in the works, and we’re excited to get going,” Urey said.