When Garibaldi’s owner/opertor Jeff Balish closed the doors after 29 years, many were wondering what would take its place. Would it be another “special occasion restaurant” with an upscale menu or a bar that could be added to the list that many folks frequent on weekends?
Well, wonder no more.
After a complete overhaul of the interior and exterior, Mike Duganier opened the doors to Publico Kitchen & Tap. What once was a premier restaurant and bar for the who’s who of Columbia has been stripped down to a much more open and casual “fusion cuisine” establishment with an emphasis on craft beer, tacos and more familiar dishes with a twist.
White tablecloths and blue ambient lighting have been replaced with wood paneled-walls, lacquered wood tables and an amber glow.
“Even though this bar is located in Five Points, it’s not necessarily a ‘college bar,’” said David Cooney, one of the bartenders who helped open the doors two months ago. “Our clients are people who want to have some really great food and really great craft beers. We’re more about pairing our really good beers with our really good food. And there’s no place really like this yet in Five Points.”
Victoria Glover, another bartender who’s been there since the beginning, echoed Cooney.
“It’s more craft beers and craft cocktails, so we get to spend more time with our customers explaining things and going into detail,” she said.
“It’s a lot more fun when you can socialize with your guests.”
Many locals already have flocked to the location, choosing to either drink in local crafts carried on one of their 54 taps – like Conquest, River Rat and Swamp Cabbage – or try their hand at the bar’s signature jalapeño-infused margarita made with fresh jalapeños or the in-house crafted Sangria, both of which are also on tap.
Depending on the day we’ll go through anywhere from one or two kegs of margaritas a day. During Friday and Saturday nights, we may go through more. A lot of people are interested in the jalapeño-infused so they sell like crazy.
Victoria Glover, bartender at Publico
“With the margarita there’s two options,” said Cooney. “Regular, or we have a spicier one that’s sriracha-infused with a ginger-chile salt rim. So it’s like, on a scale from 1 to 10, how do you want it?”
“The Soda City Saint is one of our top sellers also,” Glover said. Made with St. Germain, citrus vodka, fresh mint, lemon juice, peach and mint syrup and soda, it’s exactly how it sounds – light and refreshing.
Cooney also created the bar’s popular “Carolina Mule,” a twist on the classic Moscow mule. It’s made with muddled lime, spiced pear liqueur as a substitute for the vodka, Cannonborough ginger beer and orange bitters.
“We’re really interested in the idea of mixing because we’re a fusion-type restaurant,” Glover said.
The bar also plans to mix it up by creating a fusion-relationship with its customers.
“We have our own unique talents and we want to make our own drinks, but we also want the guest’s input,” Cooney said. “If I make my cocktail and someone wants to tweak it, we’ll try it and make it for everybody else. And if they like it that way then that’s the new one.
“Our menu is constantly evolving. Whatever the guest wants is whatever we’re going to do to make the best drinks we can.”
Publico Kitchen & Tap
WHERE: 2013 Greene St. in Five Points
WHEN: 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Thursday (kitchen closes at 10 p.m.); 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday (kitchen closes at 12 midnight)
WORTH NOTING: Happy Hour 4-7 p.m. Monday through Friday features $1 off wine and house liquor and a different $3 pint of the week, every week.
INFO: (803) 661-9043, www.publicokitchenandtap.com