Publico

After many months of anticipation, Publico finally opened its doors in the Delmar Loop. The designers of the restaurant completely transformed a former hair salon into a modern and artistic, yet comfortable space. As you walk in the front door, the wonderful smell of hickory and oak takes over your senses and you notice your eyes being drawn to the left side of the restaurant where several 3-D trees appear to emerge from the wall. There is a large bar in the middle of the restaurant and a kitchen in the back that is open to the dining area (which explains the great wood fire smell).

We arrived andPublico 1 were told that our table was not yet ready so we took a seat at the bar and ordered an original margarita and a mescal margarita. The mescal margarita differed from the original in that it is made with mezcal liquor instead tequila making it very smooth and more of a craft cocktail. I was starting to get frustrated after 40 minutes had passed from our reservation time but a table finally opened up and we were seated. Luckily, the long wait time was my only complaint of the night.

We were greeted by our lovely server, Sara, who was as upbeat and excited about the food as I was. I will warn you, Publico is not for those who shy away from bold flavors and aren’t willing to be open-minded. Although items such as lamb hearts and shredded duck gizzard are scattered about the menu, you will still find options such as guacamole, a wide variety of tacos, and grilled meats. We started with two small plates, the first being pinto beans. These flavorful beans were made with lamb drippings, mint, chives, queso fresco and were served in a metal cup with a masa cake on the side. The second dish was the cobia crudo served with ginger, lime, sweet potato, and truffle. The fish was incredibly fresh and it had a spicy kick which I really enjoyed.

I opted for street tacos for dinner. They are small, come two to an order, and are served with house-made corn tortillas. First up were the fish tacos. These took me completely by surprise as they are made with smoked white fish that, as the description suggests, pack a huge smoky flavor. They were topped with jalapeno cream cheese, cilantro, and crispy shallots which gave it the texture it needed. Next up were the Hongos tacos (Spanish for mushroom) topped with cucumber, radish, goat cheese crema, and huitlacoche. These were amazing, I just wish the shell had been a bit bigger to hold all of the filling. Publico’s tacos were fantastic and in my opinion, they are the first in St. Louis that stand up to Mission Taco. Based on the recommendation of our server, my husband ordered the pork shoulder seasoned with lime, sesame, and brown sugar. This lean cut of meat was seared and crisp on the outside and tender in the middle. His only disappointment was that the dish was served with nothing besides a lime wedge. We were thinking about ordering dessert but decided to go for a second order of Hongos tacos and we were not disappointed.

The restaurant really seems to be about options. The bar is large and comfortable enough to spend your evening having drinks and small plates or you can opt for a table to enjoy a more formal meal. The wide range of pricing allows you to have a less expensive meal of tacos or celebrate an occasion with larger plates. Unique menu items will push you out of your comfort zone if you are feeling adventurous but allow you to kick back with an appetizer if guacamole is what you prefer. Despite the 40 minute wait (with a reservation), I loved my experience at Publico and will definitely be back for more.

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook!

Publico on Urbanspoon

Advertisements

The Shaved Duck

The Shaved Duck 6What appears to be a hidden gem from the outside is actually a restaurant that everyone in town seems to know about. The Shaved Duck was completely packed, even on a Friday during Lent when it seems many people would shy away from a restaurant that prides itself on BBQ. We pushed our way in the door where we began our hour and a half wait for a table. We managed to get a drink while we waited and we were able to follow our wait on the NoWait app (although you are not able to reserve a place in line ahead of time). When we were just reaching our limit of standing shoulder to shoulder with strangers, dishes of much appreciated, seasoned popcorn were brought out and placed at the bar for everyone to munch on.

We were finally seated in the dining room which had a great, energetic vibe. We looked over the menu and decided on appetizers to share between our table of four. First up was the buttermilk cornbread served in a skillet with a side of honey butter which the menu stated would take 15 minutes to prepare. However, it arrived in no less than 5 minutes, barely warm, and slightly dried out which can only mean that it had been sitting there a while. The sweet glaze on top and butter definitely helped but in the end, it was only average. Our second appetizer was the smothered fries which were featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. They were topped with rib and pork meat, white cheese sauce, and sharp cheddar. I really enjoyed the white cheese sauce verses the typical nacho cheese you find at most places and the plate was perfect for four people to share. While the fries were good, I can’t say I was blown away by them.


I had the shrimp and grits for my entrée. This hearty bowl of rich and creamy grits was topped with five large shrimp and while there were no frills about it, the dish was delicious. We also had the chance to sample one of the four chilies on the menu. We ordered the ancho beef as a chili mac meaning that the chili is served over a bowl of macaroni and cheese creating a dish that is definitely large enough to be ordered as an entrée. This was the least spicy of the chilies and was definitely manageable (the spiciest is served with a glass of milk). After hearing about the house-smoked meats and homemade sausage and meatloaf, two sampler platters were ordered at our table. The first had pulled pork, pulled chicken, and mac and cheese while the second had meatloaf, pulled pork, and burnt ends. While both plates were completely licked clean, the burnt ends were voted to be the favorite and the meatloaf was said to be “better than moms” (sorry Mrs. E.).

Just when I thought I could not eat another bite, we managed to be temped with dessert. After all, who can resist Samoa white chocolate pretzel bread pudding? Unfortunately, it was a little dry and we all agreed that the gooey butter brownie might have been a better option.

While there were parts of our meal that I didn’t love and the wait was less than desirable, I understand why the restaurant is bursting at the seams. The atmosphere and energy of the restaurant make for a really great dining experience. It is evident that a lot of time has gone into creating a menu full of thoughtful comfort food that keeps people coming back.

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook!

The Shaved Duck on Urbanspoon

Cucina Pazzo

Cucina Pazzo 7 I will admit that I am not the biggest fan of Italian restaurants. While the food is almost always delicious, tradition seems to be a point of intense pride and I tend prefer a little more creativity to my meals. Normally the idea of spending a date night at an Italian restaurant would do anything but excite me but hearing buzz around this week’s restaurant, I was willing to have an open mind.

Cucina Pazzo is a cozy little romantic restaurant located in the Central West End serving Italian food with a modern twist. While the menu is based on typical traditional dishes, this menu is anything but ordinary. For example, the Maine lobster risotto is served with a fried egg while the fettuccini alfredo comes with spicy Italian sausage. Our meal started with drinks and I chose the Frutta martini made with vanilla vodka, peach liqueur, peach puree, cream, and cinnamon. This sweet drink tasted just like a dreamsicle and went down easy. We were also presented with rosemary focaccia served in a hot cast iron skillet served with a sweet and tangy dipping sauce. For an appetizer we went with the Sicilian style artichoke stuffed with Parmesan, seasoned bread crumbs, and lemon (crab can be added for an additional charge). Although there was not a lot of meat on the artichoke leaves, the real treat was the artichoke heart at the bottom of the dish. The seasonings were great and the dish was perfect for sharing.

I felt like I needed to try one of the fresh fish options on the menu for my main course so I chose the pistachio crusted barramundi served with garlic broccolini, butter poached potatoes, and a spicy lobster sauce. The light, flaky fish was fresh and the broccolini was nicely cooked but the star of the dish was definitely the lobster sauce. I could put the sauce on almost anything or even eat it with a spoon and I would be happy. My husband chose the chopstick pig pasta served with pancetta, Kalua pork, pork belly, bacon, Brussel sprouts, wok vegetables, and a butter sauce. This hearty pasta dish was served with an amazing Asian inspired sauce which was quite a nice surprise given that we were at an Italian restaurant.

 

Although all of the food was delicious, the highlight of the meal was dessert. We chose the freshly baked cookie which came out in a hot cast iron skillet since it was highly recommended by our waiter. This warm, half-baked cookie was topped with ice cream and almond whipped cream mousse and was a great way to finish the night.

 

If you are looking for a unique dining experience be sure to ask for a seat at the bar of the open kitchen so you can enjoy a little show while you eat, reservations not required. I can’t wait for the weather to warm up so I can come back to enjoy a meal on the nice sidewalk patio out front.

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook!

Cucina Pazzo STL on Urbanspoon

Grapeseed

IMG_3245Thanks to a suggestion I received, I decided to head to the Southhampton neighborhood to check out Grapeseed. Being a Friday night, I reserved my place in line with my favorite app., NoWait. I was able to hang out at home and then head to the restaurant to be seated as soon as I walked in the door. If you arrive and you aren’t willing to wait, you can snag a seat at the bar where you can still order all food items of the menu.

IMG_3248As the name suggests, the restaurant features an extensive wine list and American style food made with seasonal, local ingredients. The majority of the menu is served as small plates ranging in price from $5-$16. There are also reasonably priced sandwiches and a small selection of entrees, several of which are gluten free. I started off with a Macklind Mule made with vodka, ginger beer, lime juice, and grapefruit bitters all served in a traditional copper cup. In addition to wine, there is a selection of local draft beer and a wider variety of bottled beer.

Based on our waitress’s suggestion, we started with two small plates. First was the gnocchi made with brown butter, brussel sprouts, and pecans. I could have eaten this yummy dish for my dinner alone. I loved the subtle nutty flavor and crunch that the pecans added to the gnocchi. My only wish was that there would have been just a few more gnocchi (but maybe that is just because it was so delicious). Our second starter was the flatbread with spiced cauliflower, ham, white bean puree, and mozzarella. The cauliflower had a great cumin flavor with just a little kick to it and was cooked so that it had a nice crunch. This is a great dish to share and they were able to make half of it without ham to be more vegetarian friendly.

 

I ordered the salmon burger with ginger slaw and molasses for my entree. I eat a lot of salmon burgers but this was easily the best one I have ever had. I love when salmon has a subtle sweetness and the molasses is what set this burger apart. The large burger was served on an incredibly fresh, simple bun and topped with the slaw which added a little texture. The burger did not come with any sides but fries were available as a small plate.
Based on another recommendation from our waitress, my husband ordered the shrimp and cheddar grits topped with apple, pepper pesto, and bacon. The shrimp are served with the heads on which can be a little intimidating if you are not used to this. Although I do not love to see the face of food I am about to eat, my husband didn’t mind other than the little bit of extra work that it required. The grits were rich and creamy and this was the perfect dish for a cold winter night.

 

Grapeseed was packed the entire evening which leads me to my only complaint of the night. The restaurant is loud! Our server had to keep repeating herself and we had to shout just to hear across our 2 person table. That being said, with great food, reasonable prices, and a relaxed atmosphere, Grapeseed is everything you hope your neighborhood restaurant will be.

Grapeseed is located at 5400 Nottingham Ave. St. Louis, MO 63109

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

Grapeseed on Urbanspoon

Three Flags Tavern

After months of hearing rave reviews about Three Flags Tavern, I was excited to see for myself what all of the buzz was about. Walking into the restaurant on a cold winter night, I immediately felt as if I was walking into someone’s home by the warm greeting and offer to take my coat. Although the dining area and bar are divided into two rooms, the entire space feels comfortable and cozy. The dark walls, large map on the wall, and wood wine racks give it a rustic, yet almost old world vibe.

Three flags 8
The Amelia

The drink menu offers several craft cocktails. I chose the Elderflower Paloma made with tequila, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, lime juice, and a Stiegl Radler float. This smooth drink went down quickly and while I had every intention of trying something else for my second round, I couldn’t help but order another. I also had the opportunity to sample the Amelia made with gin, lemon juice, and unique flavors such as crème de violette, velvet falernum, and a cava float. While I cannot tell you much about the ingredients in the Amelia cocktail, I can tell you that it was quite tart and packed a little punch.

The eclectic food menu is driven by a mix of Spanish, French, and American influences (Get it? Three Flags!). I started with off-the-menu Deer Creek oysters flown in from Washington. They are served with a choice of cocktail or mignonette sauce. The oysters were medium in size, sweet, and delicious. For an appetizer, our table of four shared lobster beignets and Manchego fritos. The lobster beignets were fried on the outside with a creamy lobster center. They were topped with a bit of powdered sugar which added a little sweetness. These were a huge hit at our table and were gone within minutes. While it was my fault for not reading the menu closely, I was surprised that the Manchego was served fried. Although Manchego keeps with the Spanish theme, frying it makes it taste no more special than a mozzarella stick. What made this dish unique was the side of dulce de membrillo (jelly made from the pulp of a quince fruit). The cheese definitely tasted its best when the two were paired together. While I enjoyed the appetizers, two fried dishes were too much for me.

I ordered the Connecticut style lobster roll for my entree since I had yet to try this popular dish. You may order the dish Maine style (served cold and mixed with mayonnaise and celery) or Connecticut style (served warm with drawn butter). Both come in a poppy seed bun with a side of onion rings. The large pieces of lobster were sweet and tender but the bread didn’t seem to add much to the dish so after a few bites, I ended up taking the lobster out of the bun and eating it alone. The onion rings were as good as any I’ve ever had but after two fried appetizers and lobster covered in butter, I was not in the mood for them. I was able to try the sturgeon with mustard greens, clams, and lobster broth. We were expecting quite a bit more broth than what was served but the clams were large and the sturgeon was cooked and perfectly seasoned. Having been honored with the Riverfront Time’s best burger of 2014, my friend was excited to try the ground brisket burger with cheddar. This was served with a side of fried pickles and was so large that it was difficult to even take a bite. However, he ranked it as one of his top 5 favorite burgers in St. Louis. With additional side dishes available, we chose brussel sprouts and papas bravas. The papas bravas were large pieces of potato tossed in a tomato sauce and the brussel sprouts were served with apple and smoked shitake which provided a unique flavor. Both sides were more than enough food for four people.

Since I was amongst blue cheese lovers, we ordered the blue cheese with honeycomb and slices of toasted baguette for dessert. The sweetness of the honeycomb paired with blue cheese was an unexpected but great surprise and something I would definitely order again.

Overall, I was really pleased with my meal at Three Flags. I wish that the menu offered a little more explanation about dishes because I probably would have made different choices to lighten up my meal a bit. This is a great place to go either with friends or on a date night. Be sure to make reservations because it can be difficult to get a table at this popular spot.

Three Flags Tavern is located at 4940 Southwest Ave St. Louis, MO 63110

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter!

Three Flags Tavern on Urbanspoon