Bartender Sam Jones at the bar in the Publik House on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2015. The Irish restaurant opened last fall. (Chris Barry/B&W photo)

New Irish bar welcomes students to Fourth Street

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When Jose Nunez moved to New York from Mexico 18 years ago, he began working in an Irish restaurant. Although he had no prior experience in the restaurant business, he worked as a chef there for nine years. Upon moving to Pennsylvania, he opened the popular South Side Bethlehem restaurant La Lupita.

He missed cooking in an Irish restaurant, so he decided to open his own Irish restaurant called Publik House, located where the restaurant Horns formerly resided.

“If you come here, you will be back,” said Publik House manager Darryl McElroy.

McElroy said the dinner and lunch menus feature typical Irish fare such as shepherd’s pie, alongside other items including hamburgers, pizza, salads, wraps, ribs, pasta, steak, chicken dishes, seafood and more. Publik House also has a weekend brunch menu, which includes omelets, sandwiches and soups.

Bartender and server Brian Swanick, ’15, said he believes the restaurant has the best pancakes in the area.

Although there is another Irish bar located near Lehigh’s campus, Nunez and McElroy said they are not worried about the competition.

“We are definitely different than (Molly’s Irish Grille and Sports Pub),” McElroy said. “Our food is different than what Molly’s has to offer.”

Publik House is hiring mostly college students from the area and plans to host fun weekend events for local students. Thursday nights will be college night featuring a DJ, Friday nights will be dance night and Saturday nights will have karaoke. Publik House will also host trivia nights on Tuesdays.

“It’s got a classic, fun, chill atmosphere, with great prices,” Swanick said.

Although Publik House doesn’t offer liquor specials yet, they have happy hour every day from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. On Thursdays, the bar offers $2.50 pints and $5 pitchers of Bud Light. Fridays, it sells $3.50 Goose Island and $8 pitchers. On Sundays it hosts Shock Top Sunday with $2.50 pints and $5 pitchers, along with Shock Top mimosas.

McElroy said all of the food is freshly made to order and none of it is frozen. Nunez makes his own patties for hamburgers and serves freshly cut french fries. He said very little of the food is cooked through a frying process.

Even though Nunez is the chef at Publik House, he still remains the chef at La Lupita. He cooks every day at Publik House, but only at La Lupita on Mondays and Tuesdays. Nunez’s brother-in-law cooks at La Lupita as well, and Nunez sent his brother to train for six months at the Irish restaurant in New York where he originally worked so he can help Nunez cook at Publik House.

Nunez likes that he is able to easily go back and forth between the two restaurants because they are close in proximity. He also appreciates the help he receives from his family and people who started with him at La Lupita seven years ago.

“I’m so lucky to have this family,” he said.

The restaurant is completely renovated, and looks much different than Horns. The restaurant has been transformed from an earthy atmosphere to very typical Irish pub décor. The former seating area of Horns is now the bar area for Publik House, and the majority of the back kitchen area has been condensed. McElroy said condensing the kitchen provided space for 60 additional seats.

“Publik House has the student exclusivity like (Leon’s Restaurant and Bar), but the decor and vibes of (J.P. MacGrady’s),” Swanick said.

McElroy said he hopes to expand in the future by either making Publik House bigger, or opening more restaurants.

“I want Lehigh students to come here and have a very clean and safe environment to be in,” he said.

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