The New Tacos at Público Are Straight Out of Jack in the Box

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Look familiar? - PHOTO BY SARAH FENSKE
  • PHOTO BY SARAH FENSKE
  • Look familiar?

There is only one thing wrong with the tacos being served at the new happy hour that premiered last night at Público (6679 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-833-5780), Mike Randolph's acclaimed Latin-inspired restaurant — and that is this: There is no drive-through access.

But fast food lovers may still notice that they look familiar. Served in a crisp corn shell that's been fried and then stuffed with meat, cheese and lettuce, they come with a side of house-made ranch on the side for dipping. In other words, they're almost exactly like the wildly addictive tacos at Jack in the Box — only they're made with artisan lettuce and the meat inside is no mystery (it's apparently short rib). Like their fast food counterparts, they are insanely good.

The tacos are the creation of sous chef Bryan Russo. Russo's first kitchen job was at Taco Bell, and the 26-year-old admits to having spent way too many hours messing around in the kitchen, trying to recreate the fast food classics. "Gorditas, crunch wraps — I like the food, but I also like the idea of figuring out how to do them properly, with fresh ingredients." 

The Público tacos are almost certain to remain a work in progress. Because the restaurant uses farm-fresh ingredients, the lettuce that gives these babies crunch will likely change with the seasons — but that's OK. They take their flavor from the terrific combination of crunchy shell and soft meat, the dried chiles that inform the seasoning, the hint of cheese and a squeeze of lime. Sold in a pair for $6, they're the perfect thing to order next time you're craving delicious, but don't want food that's spent weeks in a deep freeze.

Público's new happy hour includes a host of drink specials, as well as fritters and spiced peanuts. It's only available from 5 to 7 p.m. in the bar area, Tuesdays through Fridays. If you get a craving for these tacos after 7, well, you probably already know where to find the drive-through version. Just try not to think too hard about what you're eating.

Sous Chef Bryan Russo - PHOTO BY SARAH FENSKE
  • PHOTO BY SARAH FENSKE
  • Sous Chef Bryan Russo

We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at sarah.fenske@riverfronttimes.com


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