When the new Delmar Loop Trolley finally hits the rails, visitors to the area will have an exciting array of foods awaiting them. Some of the more intriguing cuisine can already be found on the Mexican-Latin American menu at Publico. If a relaxed, easy atmosphere is important to you, Publico has that, too, with its casual bar, comfortable booths, and open kitchen arrangement. A hint of smokiness in the air reminds those contemplating a meal, that there’s some serious wood-fired cooking going on in the kitchen.
Owner Mike Randolph (he also owns Randolphi restaurant located next door) has made a name for himself as an avant-garde chef with a flair for using unique ingredients. If there’s a word you don’t recognize on the menu, you can always Google it or ask one of the helpful servers.
Still, I’m thinking that a glossary might be useful to patrons unfamiliar with such terms as arepas (corn cakes); sweetbreads (organ meat); and vera cruz (a tangy fish sauce). Like me, you might not know that Iberico chorizo is sausage made from acorn-eating, black-footed pigs or that foie gras torchon is a decadent, creamy, duck liver concoction shaved atop the rice pudding.
Those familiar with Spanish might recognize higado as liver mousse and queso amarilla as yellow cheese, or the cherry mezcal sauce as an ancient drink made from the agave plant. If your taste leans more to conventional fare, take a look at the designer tacos, fall-off-the-bone ribs, half chicken and flank steaks.
Wait staff and manager Jack Noecker go far beyond what most places do to see that customers have a fine dining experience. I was surprised when our server took time to explain the entire menu line by line and to field our questions, all without seeming rushed or annoyed. The four at our table shared a number of dishes each presented with pride. I like that. It shows respect and teamwork between the dining room and kitchen.
On the Menu at Publico
When it comes to dessert, there are two choices. One is Missouri Rice Pudding with mango, lime, and grated foie gras torchon ($13). The four of us had a taste of the second dessert item: a Flan with rioja spiced chocolate and whipped cream ($7). We disposed of it before I could get a photo.
Whether you get there by trolley, car or afoot, Publico is a fine dining destination, both relaxed and palate pleasing.
Publico, 6679 Delmar Blvd., University City. Open: Tue-Sat 5p-10p; Sun 5p-9p. Closed Monday.