Restaurant Review: The Republic of Sandwich
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Reviewed by Rachel Feit, Fri., Jan. 16, 2015
Sat.-Mon., 8am-3pm; Tue.-Fri., 7am-7pm
Republic of Sandwich2320 Hancock, 512/960-6566
Mon.-Fri., 7am-7pm; Sat. -Sun., 8am-3pm
Sometimes smaller is better. I find this to often be the case with restaurants. Large, cavernous spaces are difficult to fill, and frequently have a frosty ambience. By contrast, it doesn't take much to make small restaurant spaces seem comfortably crowded. So I'd say it was a good decision when newbie Austinites Pete O'Donnell and Thomas Gardner decided to take over the lease on the snug 750-square-foot space at the corner of Hancock and North Loop for their first independent foray into the restaurant biz. Republic of Sandwich may be tiny, but believe me, the kitchen is producing marvels of sandwichery and other fare.
Republic taps into Austin's growing demand for everyday provisions that are at once artisanal and casual. O'Donnell and Gardner have parlayed their considerable fine-dining experience into a homier neighborhood deli concept. The result is something not quite new to Austin – think Noble Sandwich Co. and Melvin's Deli Comfort – but nonetheless thoroughly embraceable. There are no water-injected, shrink-wrapped deli meats served here. Instead, just about everything from meats and mayo to dressings and sides are made in a diminutive kitchen that makes a food trailer canteen look roomy.
O'Donnell and Gardner roast their own turkey to make one of the brawniest club sandwiches ($9) around, with plenty of thick slabs of bacon, roasted onions, and herbed mayonnaise. Their pastrami is brined and smoked in-house and paired with mushrooms to produce a spectacular Reuben sandwich ($9). Then there are the pulled pork sandwiches (try the one served with rapini, peppers, and provolone, [$9]) served on crusty rolls flown in from Amoroso's in Philly, which are sloppy in the extreme, but so tasty you just don't care that you have juice dribbling down your chin. Do yourself a favor and order a side of the roasted "kimchi" brussels sprouts ($2). These are sweet and lusty, savory and spicy all at once.
In keeping with their grab-and-go deli concept, Republic of Sandwich's breakfast menu is dominated by the ubiquitous taco ($3). O'Donnell and Gardner tried serving omelets but found that the demand was generally for more portable fare. Fortunately, the bagels with house-cured gravlax ($8) and potato latkes ($4) have stayed, and they alone are well worth the trip.
True, the tiny kitchen limits the possibilities for what O'Donnell and Gardner can do with their cuisine, but the partners strive to keep the menu fresh with specials that change every few days. Empire builders take note: This little republic is one to watch.
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