A row of international flags is the first sign that life has returned to the corner of Broad and Allison streets. In the 1888 building that once held Fifth Avenue, Benjamin's and Cabo's, a new restaurant “about the people, for the people” — the Republic — is making its presence known in its first week of business.
It's a Twitter-generation whiskey bar, meaning all staff members get their own Twitter accounts and are expected to tweet about specials and events. It boasts egalitarian prices, a menu that covers all the current comfort-food bases and a team that's well known for hospitality. Most hands-on are Rick Lyons, who opened and later sold his share in both Banditos locations and Star-Lite, and Page Cassada, who will manage the 20-tap bars. Developers Justin French and Matthew Applegate share ownership.
This is the first new local restaurant to offer completely separate smoking and nonsmoking rooms with separate entrances, separate bathrooms and equal status in design and appeal — there's no banished-to-the-back sensation for parties of either persuasion. Recycled woods, glass tiles made from old Japanese windshields and other details in the redesigned space hint at its green philosophy. “We are recycling all cardboard and bottles,” Lyons says, “and we are part of Virginia Green. The building has solar hot water and will eventually be all-solar,” making it one of the only restaurants in Virginia to be powered mostly off the grid.
What the Republic wants to be known for is its inclusive and familiar approach to the neighborhood pub scene. Guests are encouraged to enlist and get discounts and to plan their private parties in the adjacent catering hall under construction. Next month the business will take over the Enoteca Sogno spot for its catering kitchen and dining room, expanding the Republic's reach to half of a prime block of restored buildings.
For now, the business is open daily from 10:30 a.m. to 2 a.m., with live piano music on Thursdays and Fridays. Happy hours and other live entertainment will follow. Dinner menu items range from small-plate pork empanadas ($7) to a signature entrAce of braised short ribs on Parmesan polenta ($19) with sandwiches and salads well under $10. “We have a team that is amazing,” Lyons says, “and we want to bring Broad Street back to life. It's ready.” With 600-plus fans on Facebook before opening, it already appears to be a well-populated option. 2053 W. Broad St. 594-4444, or visit therepublicrva.com.
Enoteca Sogno will close Nov. 28. Owner Gary York is looking for a new location for the wine bar while continuing operations at his seafood restaurant Coast in the Westhampton area. See details online in Style Weekly's blogs.
Holiday sparkle: Tastebuds American Bistro plays host to a five-flute tasting of traditional and New World sparkling wines teamed with an array of small plates, Dec. 7 at 7 p.m. Cost is $45 plus tax and gratuity. 4019 MacArthur Ave. 261-6544, or visit tastebudsamericanbistro.com.