Public Landing is a restaurant rich in character. Its charming setting and classic upscale fare are surely enough to attract those with an appetite, but the history ingrained in the Lockport eatery's limestone walls truly set it apart.
It inhabits the first level of the historic Gaylord Building, a limestone warehouse built in 1838, that played a vital role in one of the great enterprises of the 19th century: the digging of the 96-mile-long Illinois & Michigan Canal.
Nestled between the canal, a railway and a park, the building provides a local history lesson to Public Landing diners. Murals on the walls of the building's entrance explain its significance to mid-1800s trade, while engraved stones just outside the restaurant's patio offer a glimpse into how the waterway was born. President Abraham Lincoln played a big role.
My companion and I spent a recent summer night at Public Landing. Dinner came first, followed by a relaxing walk through Lincoln Landing Park, a terrace along the canal just south of the Gaylord Building.
Inside, diners are treated to a lovely window view of the restaurant patio, park and terrace overlooking the canal. Of course, you get the sense you're dining in history: Wooden beams line the restaurant ceiling, and the limestone bricks show through to the interior.
After we were seated, a veteran server greeted us kindly before bringing out warm pretzel bread with our appetizer, the House Made Chips. The serving, tossed with Romano cheese and sea salt and flanked by a ranch dipping sauce, was both tasty and a bargain.
For our entrees, I went with the Char Broiled Pork Tenderloin, while my companion opted for the Blackened Mahi Mahi, served over a roasted red pepper coulis and complemented with zucchini and yellow squash.
The pork tenderloin was perfectly prepared – and surprisingly juicy. Three generous strips proved to be plenty of meat for the dish, accompanied by mashed potatoes and tasty sugar snap peas. It can be found under the house specialties portion of Public Landing's menu, and is definitely recommended.
As for the mahi mahi, my partner was pleased with the seafood choice, noting that the red pepper coulis added good flavor.
Other house specialties include the Roasted Pennsylvania Turkey Breast and the Vegan Stir Fry, with options to add chicken, calamari or shrimp. Over on the seafood portion of the menu are a sauteed tilapia, grilled salmon, and lobster tail.
Aged steaks and fresh homemade pasta recipes round out the menu, as do tempting desserts and a wide array of wine and craft beer.
Perhaps most unique to the menu, though, are the "Yappetizers." Adding to the character of Public Landing is a series of plates for your pooch, available for guests who want to dine with their dogs in the outdoor patio. Options include the aptly named "Quarter Hounder" burger and the "Hot Diggity Dog."
Diners are asked to make reservations in advance at Public Landing, where banquet space also is available for private parties.
The Mystery Diner is a newsroom employee at Suburban Life Media. The diner's identity is not revealed to the restaurant staff before or during the meal. Only positive dining experiences will result in published reviews.
WHERE: 200 W. Eighth St., Lockport
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday; 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday; closed Monday
DRESS CODE: Casual
INFO: publiclandingrestaurant.com or 815-838-6500 for reservations