Publico's Happy Hour

"The Mini-Taco Chronicles" INT. HIGH SCHOOL CAFETERIA, ST. LOUIS, MO - 2005

A young Spencer stands in line in his school's cafeteria, anxiously awaiting his turn to have his tray filled. He and his classmates have been looking forward to this day all quarter. It's "Appetizer Day." The one day where lunch is made up of only foods typically served at a Super Bowl party. Pigs in a blanket. Buffalo wings. Fried mini-tacos. Spencer eats a Michael Phelps-sized meal. Spencer wonders why he is fat.


An altered state-of-mind college student Spencer stands in the frozen food aisle of the grocery. Fresh veggies and fruit are no longer part of his diet. The cart is filled with the essentials: Jack Daniels, beer, ice cream, frozen pizzas, and frozen mini-tacos. He is happy. He also now weighs over 200 pounds.


Spencer is asked to join a group of other local food writers for an early dinner at Publico—it's the debut of the restaurant's new happy hour, which they're calling "Cantina Mano de Gato." He takes a seat at the table and peruses the happy hour menu, surprised to see that every dish and drink is exclusive to happy hour.

Drinks are ordered, drinks arrive. Frozen fernet & cola, pineapple daiquiris, Mai Tai's, and rum sours, all for $7. Spencer picks the 'Completo,' a shot of Mezcal Vago Espadin (or Ocho Plato 2015 La Latilla) with a class of Sangrita Verde, a concoction he's never had the pleasure of meeting before. He enjoys his drink, and orders another round.

Spiced peanuts and bacalao (salt cod) fritters hit the table, but are gone within seconds. More drinks arrive. Then, the Pièce De Résistance: mini-tacos.

Only mini-tacos, filled with braised beef, fried until crisp, served with ranch dressing, could silence a table full of food writers.

In the weeks following, Spencer found himself there a number of times—trying out the beer of the week, checking out the wines, and, of course, scarfing down as many mini-tacos as humanly possible. 

Publico's happy hour takes place Tuesday through Friday, 5pm-7pm.

Full disclosure: I was treated to this media tasting with no strings attached. I chose to photograph the food and write this post on my own.