By Ginger DeShaney
Publico Street Bistro and Garden is a hidden gem in South Boston’s busy restaurant scene.
Located off the beaten path at 11 Dorchester St., the eclectic eatery attracts all ages: families with kids, young adults in their 20s, people in their 80s, and everyone in between. Open for almost four years, Publico has been quietly and steadily building a stellar reputation and a burgeoning clientele.
The cool atmosphere, friendly staff, global menu, and creative executive chef attract the diverse crowd.
“We cater to everyone,” said Theo Bougas, managing partner, who noted that’s where the name Publico comes from: for the public good.
According to Publico’s website: “Imagine yourself walking through a local public market, enjoying culturally unique street foods, socializing and immersing yourself in new or familiar surroundings. We believe, for the public good, everyone should have the chance to experience this magic.”
“Our goal is to capture tastes from around the world,” Theo said, noting the dishes combine elements and flavors from Europe, and South and North America.
Executive chef Joel Howard, a 26-year-old wunderkind, is the master behind the menu. He has a lot of freedom with the food.
From charred octopus and pan-seared whole branzino to fish tacos and burgers, there’s something for everyone on his menu.
Joel tests new food ideas on his 3 for $38 menu, which is offered every Tuesday and Wednesday. Patrons choose an appetizer, an entree, and a dessert, and the dishes that do well here may end up on the main menu. A recent 3 for $38 menu offered the following options:
- Appetizer: Gnudi; creamy burrata; tuna crudo tacos.
- Main course: NY Strip; pan-seared sea scallops; dry-aged beef burger; grilled king oyster mushroom.
- Dessert: Coffee & Donuts; wild Maine blueberry tart.
“The 3 for $38 has really taken off,” said Joel.
Yucca fries, the burger, and the bolognese (pork and beef ragu, handmade tagliatelle, caciocavallo cheese, truffle) are popular menu items with customers. Joel also does a daily bread pudding special.
Brunch is also very popular, with a new menu item, the English muffin sliders, flying out of the kitchen. And the pumpernickel bagel is “out of this world,” said Joel, who runs a 90 percent scratch kitchen and buys the freshest, local product he can find.
The bar boasts seasonal cocktails and Publico sells more cocktails than beer and wine. Cocktails have names such as Build-A-Bear, Man with No Name, and Quaran-Tini.
Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Theo and Joel have been happy to have great weather for continued outdoor seating. There are several picnic tables (each with its own heater) and a long table with high chairs. Theo secured blankets for the outdoor diners for when it gets colder.
There is also an atrium in the middle of the restaurant with a retractable roof, various seating options, and fire pits. In the winter, the atrium is transformed into a ski lodge complete with food and drink to match.
The indoor dining room features funky murals and light fixtures.
The restaurant has big support from the locals and gets people coming in from outside the city. “We see a lot of the same faces,” Joel said. “We’re consistently busy.”