Midwest Living Review
Lurking in slightly seamy Public Square, Pura Vida strives to be a hip alternative to the culinary giants Greenhouse Tavern and Lola on nearby East 4th Street. Our experience, though, was mixed, and an empty dining room on a Friday night suggests Pura Vida is having trouble getting a foothold. The theme here is "urban picnic," with a playful starters menu emphasizing seasonal flavors. In particular, Pura Vida's jars ($8-$14) have garnered a lot of local buzz. These old-fashioned flip-top canisters hold interesting spreads and dips and come with a generous serving of grilled (or in our case, burned) baguette, plus some pretty radishes and sea salt. While we really wanted to like this -- the concept is just so cute -- a layer of fat on each jar was a bit unappetizing, and we felt foolish asking if we should eat it or scrape it off. Duck nachos ($7/$19) proved a better bet, and we loved the 24-hour short rib ($26), with a sweet and tangy sauce and a deliciously rich wild mushroom spatzle side. Service was a bit slow on the night we visited, and both the kitchen and bar kept inexplicably running out of things. Where was the crowd that had ordered the last of the special mojito? How could they possibly be out of olives? And where did all the pineapple polenta cake go? By the time the server confessed that other diners had also said the coffee gelato tasted like the watery bottom of an iced latte, we regretfully decided we'd prefer to take our dining dollars to the giants on East 4th.