Republic Kitchen and Bar opened this March in Arlington’s Ballston neighborhood, serving up a menu of down-home eats such as chicken and waffles and homemade key lime pie. It’s certainly inspired by “comfort food,” but don’t expect traditional pot roasts served at the family table here. Republic takes the concept in some interesting directions.
Stop by the restaurant, located where Leek American Bistro briefly did business, and you’ll find a very hip space. On a recent visit, electronic dance music pumped through the dining room as the happy hour crowd sipped cocktails at the bar, perched on stools fashioned with piping. Shimmering images of Roman busts made a pattern on the wall behind the bar. Tones of metal patina appeared throughout the design, from the dull copper of angular chandeliers to the tones of grey on tufted benches and plush settees that surround dining tables. It’s elegant and industrial in one modern stroke.
The menu reflects a similarly modern approach, fusing comfort food with international influence, gourmet treatment, and a commitment to made-from-scratch cooking.
Even the ubiquitous hot wings appetizer is given a special touch here. The Buffalo Chicken Lollies and Flats ($11) offer big chicken wings with tender meat and ample crispy skin coated in hot sauce and served with a fresh-made blue cheese sauce that’s creamy and chock full of little crumbles of the cheese. Indeed, even the sauces used here are made from scratch. In fact, a server says, the only things not made fresh in-house are the French fries (though the seasoned fries are tasty and certainly not objectionable). The fries are served with the burger here, another restaurant staple treated well at Republic. The Certified Angus Burger ($15) is flame-grilled for a boost in flavor, the beef patty wholly covered in a layer of melted baby Swiss cheese and couched in a fluffy brioche bun. Seasoned mayonnaise, tomato slices, sweet sautéed onions, applewood smoked bacon, and jalapeño slices with a fried shell are included as toppings.
Some dishes do double duty on the menu, being offered as appetizer and entrée. Jumbo lump crab cakes are offered as a starter and a main, and the sliders from the appetizer menu can replace the burger in the entrée platter. The Republic Drunken Beef Cubes are $11 as an appetizer; as an entrée, it’s $21 with the addition of jasmine rice, and is one of the top recommended main courses. One taste of the tender, juicy marinated and pan-sautéed beef cubes, with balanced savory and sweet flavor, offers evidence enough of why this entrée bears the house name.
Another recommended entrée is the Chicken and Waffles ($19). Here, the staple comfort food dish is made with surprisingly subtlety. Pieces of boneless chicken breast are fried with a buttermilk batter that isn’t aggressively seasoned. The fluffy Belgian waffles are not too sweet, and neither is the syrup, a thin sauce combining traditional maple flavor with bourbon and bacon. The dish is served in two stacks, breasts atop quarters of waffles, the towers skewered and the skewers topped with a piece of sweet candied applewood smoked bacon.
The menu doesn’t list it, but home-style desserts are offered here, including recommended key lime and chocolate silk pies (made by the chef’s mother). They weren’t available on a recent visit, but moist bread pudding, a scoop of ice cream, and some thick whipped cream was an ideal ending to a meal of time-honored comfort food, made fresh and made modern.
Republic Kitchen and Bar is located at 801 N. Quincy St., Arlington. For more information, call 571-229-0670 or visit republic-arlington.com. Restaurant hours are Monday – Sunday: 4:30 p.m. – 2 a.m.