Image: Brisket Enchiladas
Last Updated: 6/13/2020
Current Status: Republic Cantina has opened its patio up for sit-down service, limited to Weds-Sat nights. Check availability on Resy. They continue to do take-out, with many pantry/grocery items also available. They also offer a limited number of “family feasts” for take-out or delivery.
Before Times Review:
First Visit: November 2019
Republic Cantina opened in July and quickly drew fans. The cuisine is an updated version of classic Tex-Mex. It is hearty, but a little lighter than you might be bracing for.
Chips and salsa are gratis to start. You can supplement with guacamole and/or queso. They come in little bowls, but hold off on double ordering because the mains here will send you home full. There are three main course options, one of which is chicken-fried steak, a nod to Tex more than Mex. The enchiladas are deep in brown sauce with cheese crumbles and onions on top. There are five choices, two of them vegetarian. The brisket is smoky in flavor – so much so that two bites from a friend’s plate was the lingering taste on the way home despite my own plate of steak and pork fajitas. Speaking of the fajitas, they are the other option with seven choices, including a vegetarian mushroom option. In true Texas style, they also mark the shrimp option as vegetarian. You choose two different fillings, which is enough to fill about six-eight tortillas. Tim Carman in the post went on about the flour tortillas, and they are very good. Chef Antonio Burrell brings his experience in multiple cuisines to bear. The steak is spiced with Korean gochujang, but the chili paste is slight in its punch. Some of the appetizers are nearly meals in themselves like the tacos. Not tried by us yet is the well-thought-of breakfast service. There is a single dessert, which appears to be a deconstructed “Tres Leches” banana bread pudding.
The cocktail list is long, with multiple margarita variations. The classic take is fresher than the bulk-bought mixer version most of us are used to. The wine list is short (five choices at $11/glass or $42/bottle) and all from Texas or Mexico. The beers are local with the addition of Modelo and a couple Shiners. Dr. Pepper and Mexican Coke are also available.
The area is a little cramped, but bright in a post-modern kitsch way. The tables arch around the three-sided bar. Service is decent, but seemed to be stretched on a busy night.
Republic Cantina is off to a great start. They are doing right by their neighborhood, and pulling in crowds on the weekend. The focused menu gives hope that it will be able to sustain, and maybe even refine over time. It is definitely worth trying out. The big flavors and buoyant crowd might draw you back for a return visit soon after.
Other Guidance: No need to dress up for this neighborhood spot. As noted, there are GF and vegetarian options marked on the menu. The enchiladas are made with corn flour, the fajitas come with flour tortillas (but can be substituted).
Rating: Worth Trying Out
Cuisine: Latin American (Tex-Mex)
Address: 43 N St NW, Washington, DC 20001
Reservations: Walk-in, though there are tables on Resy for Sun-Thu before 6:30.
Washington Post: Tim Carman was effusive about both the place and why Tex-Mex deserves respect as a cuisine.
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