Republic Cafe (Manchester, NH)

(Update: After a few rough years starting in the Pandemic, including consolidation of operations with sister restaurant Campo Enoteca down the street, Republic closed in 2022, and Campo Enoteca was sold to new owners. Republic will be missed)

Well, after completing a relatively enjoyable visit to Southeast Michigan, we headed back home to New Hampshire. We decided upon landing that we were relatively hungry, so decided to check out a place that had been on my hit list for a while: Republic Cafe.

Republic is another example of what’s becoming a pretty common concept these days in the food world: a brasserie that focuses on showcasing local foods and beverages. Built in the classic “Parisian Cafe” model, it’s basically a long and narrow establishment with a large bar and kitchen on the left, and some seating on the right (booths and high tops). Everything about the place is a bit funky, our table had a funky brass lamp on it, our water was served to us in an old Patron bottle, and a major feature of the restaurant space is a large specials chalkboard.

In any case, Republic is one of those places that is trying to be a comfy spot for its guests, whether they are ducking in for a quick coffee or drink (as several people did while we were there), the people trying to have a light lunch or dinner, or the people having a full dinner. And their menu, while modest, seems to be rather set up well for this. On our visit, the menu was broken into hot and cold antipastis, a handful of small plate dinners, salads, and paninis. Having mostly gorged ourselves over a long weekend in Michigan, we decided to order somewhat conservatively; I ordered up a plate of frites and a vegetarian tagine, while Carol ordered up some roasted peppers with flatbread, and a chicken confit.

The frites came out first, and I’ll have to say, it was a good opening act. For starters, they were obviously doing the fries in the proper Belgian manner, with them being double-cooked, served up with some nice herbs (including one unusual one: the fries had capers in them, which actually worked), and served up with a nice lemon aioli. The tanginess of the aioli combined nicely with the perfectly crisped fries, and the capers were little salty pockets that you hit while eating them. Overall, some very nice fries, and something I hope to try again.

The other appetizer, the roasted peppers served up with flatbread, was quite good, but the real star there was the flatbread. Nice and smoky, it reminded me of a really good pizza crust. The roasted peppers weren’t much different than what you can get out of a can at a decent Italian grocery store, but were pleasant and obviously made on site.

Entree-wise, I think we both did well. Suffering from meat overload from the weekend, this vegetarian tagine, with couscous, eggplant, zucchini, tomatos, chickpeas, and a few other roasted veggies was actually a very pleasant and filling dish. The couscous and chickpea sauce served as a nice foundation, with a decent spicy and flavorful sauce. The use of grilled veggies meant that the veggies weren’t really integrated with the rest of the tagine (just floating over it), but they werre decent spiced and it seemed to work out regardless. I even somewhat enjoyed the eggplant (which is rare for me). Carol’s chicken confit was a straightforward confit, but decently executed with a nice, crispy and flavorful skin and nicely cooked chicken.

We were both thoroughly satisfied with Republic, and I hope it stays around a while, since we’re adding it to our list of reliable Manchester places we can stop at when in town.

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