After months of anticipation, Takoma Park, Md., finally welcomed its newest resident on Dec. 8. Republic Restaurant is the most recent addition to chef Jeff Black’s Washington, D.C.-based Black Restaurant Group, known for its strong focus on fresh, local seafood with occasional touches of Cajun-Creole influence. Republic offers a rather offbeat menu meant to reflect the eclectic nature of the quirky neighborhood in which it resides. Guests can enjoy a meal with family or friends in a comfortable yet trendy setting.
The space, formerly a video store, has been converted into a charming and elegant venue. Rustic wooden tables create a homey feel, while Victorian red velvet booths along one side of the restaurant add a splash of grandeur. The interior is spotted with reclaimed items meant to serve as an ode to the restaurant’s surroundings and provide a down-to-earth humility to the décor. The Black Restaurant Group has held onto the original floors, fashioned light fixtures out of jet engine parts, and proudly left the neon sign, which reads "Video Americain," hanging on the wall of the outdoor patio.
Sticking to the core concept of Black Restaurant Group, Republic’s menu features a variety of fresh seafood options, but supplements these with heartier meat and vegetarian dishes. The raw bar serves a selection of oysters that rotate daily and include both East and West Coast varieties. Black’s very own Old Black Salts, custom-cultivated by Rappahannock River Oysters, are among the local Virginia oysters featured. For those with a larger appetite, the savory house-smoked chorizo appetizer comes highly recommended. Juicy slices of chorizo are served on crunchy grilled bread smeared with a fluffy layer of whipped blue cheese. The chorizo is also topped with a sweet red onion marmalade that offsets the salty meat nicely. Another popular favorite is the duck confit Cubano entrée. Tender flakes of confit duck are paired with salty country ham, sweet slices of bread-and-butter pickles and poblano chiles layered between two slices of toasted baguette. While some menu items are borrowed from chef Black’s other restaurants (wood grilled oysters à la Pearl Dive Oyster Palace and Addie’s mussels with tomato, lemon, and garlic) most of the menu is unique to executive chef and Takoma native Danny Wells’ culinary vision. Republic’s signature burger, for example, is adorned with a mustard-ale cheese, house-smoked bacon, and crispy onions — all served on a pretzel bun.
Charismatically named specialty cocktails, creations of bar manager Brett Robison, add a sense of adventure to the beverage list. The libations menu also features local craft beers, a carefully curated wine list, and classic cocktails such as the Manhattan and the Negroni. One signature named "The Localist" nods at the Takoma Park community’s strong advocacy for environmental sustainability and preference for locally grown products. The cocktail is a mix of Green Hart Gin, BeeGeorge honey lemon juice, orange flame (produced with a lighter), and a "citrus hat." The statelier Fascist Killer (according to the menu, "It’s the Democratic Way") consists of Bulleit bourbon, Green Chartreuse, Averna Amaro, basil, and lemon peel.
While most D.C. residents might initially think of Republic as the newest outpost of the Black Restaurant Group, the restaurant was designed to be a Takoma Park landmark. The name "Republic" itself hints at the neighborhood’s nickname, "The People’s Republic of Takoma Park." Opening just in time before what seems will be a long, snowy winter, Republic will provide the city’s residents with another great reason not to have to venture all the way out to D.C. on date night.
Lili Kocsis is a self-proclaimed gastronome. She graduated from Harvard University in 2011 with a BA in linguistics. She dedicates her spare time to purposeful travel, food photography, and writing about regional cuisine under the penname MyAmusedBouche.