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Republic Restaurant - Grand Rapids, MI | Restaurant Review

A Wonderful Addition to Downtown GR!


Restaurant Category : American (New), Sushi, Tapas/Small Plates

Republic Restaurant – Grand Rapids, MI: Located on Division Avenue, just steps from Fulton, is one of the newest and best additions to come to the downtown Grand Rapids dining and drinking scene in a long time.

We stopped here for dinner and were immediately impressed with the rejuvenation of what was once a rundown, should have been condemned, eyesore of a building. What a transformation; we were more than a bit stunned. And to top it all off, they had a live jazz trio playing. Was this really Grand Rapids, or did we take a wrong turn and end up in New Orleans?

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Housed in a completely restored old building complete with exposed brick walls, tall ceilings that reached up to the open bar on the second floor, and extra large windows that allowed tons of natural daylight in, Republic Restaurant had a warm and cozy feeling. But the large bar, stocked with everything needed to make any drink you could imagine, the ornate light fixtures and tall, chic black chairs with matching tables let you know that Republic was serious about providing a top notch experience whether you were just stopping in for a drink or there for a full fledged meal.

After we got over our initial shock, we grabbed a seat and were quickly greeted by Erin (click here to read more about Erin), our waitress for the evening. Good old Midwest service, we were off to a good start! With menus in hand we settled in for what was to be a memorable evening.

Impressed by their drink menu, especially the list of martinis (Prickly Pear, Rockin’ Republic, Chocolate Decadence, Connoisseur , Blueberry Margarita… and the list continued), we decided to indulge and ordered one to enjoy as we perused their menu. I had the Cucumber made with Hendrick’s gin, my partner had the Pomegranate. Both were worth their $8.00 price tags!

With a martini in one hand and the menu in the other, we checked out the menu. As with the décor, the menu was just as impressive, especially for Grand Rapids. It was nice to see the city had matured. Appetizers like hummus, calamari, pork belly, shrimp curry, sticky chicken, edamame and curried lentils started out the eclectic menu.

Next came the soups and salads; a rather small and limited choice of options, followed by the grill and sautéed section: beef bourguignon, filet mignon and New York strip (ah, how Midwest!), and chicken, halibut, walleye and one of my favorites, scallops.

The menu continued with a handful of pasta dishes and then my other favorite, Sushi. Great sushi is quite hard to find in Grand Rapids. Other than Seoul Garden Restaurant, there aren’t any other restaurants that serve really good sushi in Grand Rapids.

The sushi menu was well rounded. It had all the regulars; dynamite, tempura shrimp, Philadelphia, spider and spicy California rolls, as well as a few more inventive items like rock ‘n roll (with crab, tuna, shrimp, salmon, cucumber and wasabi mayo) and surf-turf rolls (with Kobe steak, soft-shell crab, avocado, cream cheese and sweet & spicy mayo).

After much discussion, there were just too many scrumptious sounding items to choose from, we decided on doing sharing plates and placed our order: edamame, shrimp curry, pork belly and dynamite, monster (with soft shell crab, tuna, salmon, asparagus, pickled daikon and sweet & spicy mayo) and surf-turf rolls. To top off our meal we ordered a bottle of 2006 Argyle Pinot Noir from Oregon (the wine was 40% off; it was their Monday night promotion).

After nibbling on the edamame for a while, the real food started to make it to our table. We were ready to see if the food at Republic was going to match the upscale yet relaxed vibe of the restaurant. First up was the Pork Belly, strike one, dull and a bit boring. The Shrimp Curry (sautéed tiger shrimp, bell peppers, wild grain, jasmine rice croquettes, red curry, coconut cream) however more than made up for the pork. Spicy and tangy, it was a delight to have such a great dish in downtown Grand Rapids.

Our appetites were teased and tempted; we were ready for the sushi. The rolls were better than anything I ever imagined having in downtown Grand Rapids, but not as tasty (or fresh) as the sushi at Seoul Garden (located at Woodland Mall), but close. The ample portion sizes insured we were not leaving hungry. While the sushi may not have been as high-quality as we hoped for, the upscale décor, relaxing, fun atmosphere and superior service made us delighted we stopped and ate at Republic Restaurant in Grand Rapids.

Erin tempted us with desserts of a cookie with ice cream and chocolate; cheese cake, apple fritter, and crème brulee, but neither of us could manage another bite. Another drink though we could handle, so we ordered refreshments and hunkered down for a little more live jazz.

Ah, what a night! Downtown Grand Rapids was continuing to be a perfect place for a night out and the addition of Republic Restaurant just added to the diversity. Bombastic!

What I liked: Atmosphere, service, shrimp curry, wine and drink list, the choice of another fun restaurant in Grand Rapids.

What I didn’t like: Pork Belly

Rating: Bombastic

Read restaurant reviews for other great (and not so great) restaurants in Grand Rapids, MI:
Chop House Restaurant – Downtown Grand Rapids, MI
Corez Wine Bar – Cheery Hill Area, Grand Rapids, MI
Green Well Gastro Pub Restaurant – Cherry Hill Area, Grand Rapids, MI
Restaurant Bloom – Downtown Grand Rapids, MI
Six One Six Restaurant at The JW Marriot Hotel - Downtown Grand Rapids, MI

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