By Andrea Harward
As you near the corner of Maryland Parkway and Fremont Street, PublicUs magically emerges from a string of commercial shops and up-and-coming storefronts. Boom! A culinary hipster oasis materializes before your very eyes.
PublicUs focuses on providing fresh, health-conscious food in a casual, inviting setting. From the metallic bench seating reminiscent of a high school cafeteria to the swanky, wooden picnic tables with live trees growing from their centers, the décor is a cozy fusion of industrial and natural elements. If you’re not thrilled with the concept of communal dining, there are plenty of other seating options to satisfy even the most anti-social diner.
As you approach the cafeteria-esque deli counter to place your order, one can't help but admire the cornucopia of salads, sandwiches, appetizers, breads, muffins, and assorted desserts presented on an eclectic mishmash of serving dishes, perched proudly on rustic wooden stands. If the plethora of options overwhelms you, don't be afraid to ask the staff for suggestions. They're especially approachable and willing to guide you through even the most extreme hunger-fueled indecision.
The Braised Oxtail Soup ($4.50) is meat-laden with a rich, salty, citrusy broth. I ordered it alongside a salad, a sandwich, a quinoa dish, and two appetizers.
The Arugula Salad ($4.50) is perfect for a hot summer day. The pomegranate seeds coupled with the sweetness of the prosciutto blend harmoniously with the delightfully familiar bitterness of the arugula and the sharpness of the Grana Padano.
The Red Quinoa Salad ($4.50) with grapes, pecans, goat cheese, and champagne vinaigrette is my new PublicUs favorite. The portion size is sensible and even as a side dish it’s surprisingly filling.
The bread display looked phenomenal, like something out of a Parisian bakery, so I gave in and ordered the Coffee Rubbed Roast Beef Sandwich ($12) layered with brie cheese, a pear-horseradish slaw and truffle aioli. The flavor in this sandwich is huge. It comes with a side order of house made chips, and they are everything you could want from a potato chip: thin, crispy, lightly seasoned, spud heaven.
Spiced with tones of nutmeg and hazelnut, the Sweet Potato Salad ($4.50) is unique and unexpected. This is not your mom’s potato salad, but I would definitely order it again, maybe even slap it on my sandwich. Last but not least, the Orzo Salad ($4.50), served chilled, is crisp and flavorful with a sweet snap from red pepper, fig, and paprika.
At PublicUs, the vibe is cool, the food is stellar, the portions are ample, the coffee is top-notch, and the staff is sincere. I can’t wait to visit again.
1126 Fremont Street