Not a trace of Metallica remains at 594 Union Avenue, the former site of divey Over The Eight bar and its Santa Salsa food counter. The space has been reborn as Casa Pública, a fancy Mexican eatery that's as bright and cheerful as OT8 was dark and grungy. At least you can still get a Tecate here—but it's $7 and there's no accompanying shot of cheap tequila.
The new restaurant is run by chef Bob Truitt, beverage director/general manager Meaghan Montagano and managing partner Daniel Ortiz de Montellano, who have transformed the former bar/venue into a sunny spot for mezcal cocktails, ceviches and tacos. Look closely and you'll see pages from vintage Mexican newspapers wrapped around certain surfaces; there's also a mosaic mural behind the bar depicting the hand-ground corn process in making tortillas.
The decor and the dishes are both meant to evoke the past and present of Mexico City. In this interpretation, that means heirloom corn tortillas for carnitas ($8) and squash blossom ($13) tacos; tostadas topped with crab, sea urchin and avocado in a spicy peanut sauce ($20); and Pollo Abobada ($24), roasted chicken in guajillo adobo with fingerling potatoes and a pico de gallo made with nopales (cactus).
Micheladas—including that Tecate number, which is encrusted with salt and served with a douse of sangrita with lime—anchor the beer program, while cocktails skew towards mezcals/tequilas, including larger "Grande Cocteles" like the 51-ounce, Patrick Swayze-approved "I Carried A Watermelon," ($48) with Olmeca Altos Blanco Tequila, Carpano Blanco Vermouth, watermelon, cucumber and citrus.
While my beloved Venezuelan hot dogs may be gone—a pared down Santa Salsa operation has been running out of Iona recently—the team here is dangling a late night Mexican hot dog to debut sometime soon.
594 Union Avenue, (718) 388-3555; casapublicabk.com