Daniel Kaufman opened Public Fish and Oyster restaurant on West Main Street in Charlottesville 19 months ago and now he’s bringing a casual version of that restaurant to Crozet in the location formerly known as Da Luca Bistro and Bar in Old Trail. The new restaurant, expected to open in mid-October, will be called Public West Pub and Oyster Bar.
“I’m a Charlottesville resident. I went a long time not coming to Crozet,” said Kaufman. “I can’t believe what’s going on here. There’s houses everywhere. It’s great! We’ll be the first [restaurant] here specializing in seafood. Our oysters are sourced from Virginia and New England and Canada and the West Coast. They are mostly farmed oysters but some are wild. There are five species of oysters raised for food in the U.S. We use the Atlantic oyster. There will be six to 12 varieties available a day. They have a taste for the place where they grew. It’s like terroir with wine.
“My life’s ambition was to open a restaurant. First it was pizza, and then fine dining, then it became seafood-oriented. I started as a dishwasher and I discovered I was good at the restaurant business. I got into management.”
He spent nine years at Farmington Country Club. “That’s where I learned the hospitality business. It’s not just the kitchen. It’s the front of the house and how you’re treated. I want to stress that it’s about offering true hospitality. It’s not just Southern.”
Chef Donnie Glass will oversee both restaurants. Brian Sewell, who is coming from Rhode Island, will be chef d’cuisine in Crozet.
“We’re opening a full-service restaurant. I had been looking at a restaurant in Charlottesville for some time. I had very little money. I needed to find somebody who wanted out and could be flexible. The stars aligned and it’s amazing how it worked out as it did. From day one we were busy. We had the right group together who really cared about their trade. It shows in the product.
“Crozet came up as our second place for a restaurant. It will be shellfish and seafood oriented. Our signature dish is pan-roasted oyster. Plus we have a steak dish.”
Public West Pub “will have a slightly more casual concept. We’ll offer sandwiches, burgers and crab cakes, hush puppies and fish tacos, plus we’ll do what we’re known for. We’ll have great fish and chips. The average Joe can come here, or come in for three courses. We’ll also differ here by having a kids’ menu. This place will be more for families. And we have a great bar program. You’ll walk in here and know it’s a first cousin of Charlottesville, just with some uniqueness.”
The restaurant will be open six days a week (closed Mondays) beginning at 4:30 p.m. and closing at a yet-unsettled hour. Sandwiches will go in the $10 to $14 range and entrees from $18 to $25. There are 11 tables inside and 6 outdoors.
“Conceptually, our menu is driven by seasonality,” said Kaufman. “We’ll change it four or five times a year based on what’s available. We’ll pull popular things off the menu when they go out of season. You’ll love the food. I promise.
“We’re here in Old Trail but we’re for all Crozet. We’re really excited to be here and be part of this community. We’ve really been made to feel welcome.”