The Republic Grille opened for business in late Spring 2014 in the far west end of the Panther Creek Shopping Center in The Woodlands, Texas. The space was previously held for more than 30 years by an Asian eatery, Ace Chinese Restaurant, who has plans to relocate to a new location just outside of The Woodlands.
The Woodlands Texas turns 40 in 2014 having first raised a flag on Saturday, October 19, 1974. Since then, we have seen a number of restaurants come and go, and The Republic Grille pays homage to The Woodlands with their interesting collection of historical photographs.
As we mentioned earlier, The Republic Grille recently opened (May 12, 2014) after including the finishing touches on the complete rebuild of the retail space at Panther Creek Shopping Center. The new eatery features an upscale interior with stone accents, combined with some comfortable outdoor seating for casual dining and/or drinks.
The dinner menu comes in at just under 40 items before you count the sides and desserts, adequately covering the basics. Overall pricing is about average of what you might expect to pay at other full service restaurants of similar caliber, while the ambiance and service at Republic Grille exceeds those same establishments. Adult entrées start at a modest $9 for an Angus burger, and top out at a mere $19 for shrimp or flounder.
We began with the Spinach & Artichoke Dip, $7. The blend of spinach, artichokes, a house blend of spices, Parmesan cheese, and sliced, toasted baguettes arrived piping hot, in short order. The diced tomato sitting on top adds a nice contrast in color, and compliments the fresh, whole leaf spinach.
The sliced baguette was presented bathed in olive oil; in fact, ours was a bit saturated. At least there is a good trade-off of overall health benefits of extra virgin olive oil versus butter. It also would have been nice to have had two or four more slices of the bread, as we found ourselves finishing the dip with our forks.
Our serving of the popular appetizer had a generous amount of spinach, and had it been diced a bit finer, it would likely have been easier to manage. The 'rich and creamy' part of the dish was lacking slightly on the creamy side, winding up with our giving an overall score of eight out of ten.
Before I talk about the sandwich, can I just point out - and commend - Republic Grille for not having an up-charge for the sweet potato fries? Thank you! Seriously, sweet potatoes can't possible cost a restaurant twice as much as potatoes. Add to that, the sweet potato fries here were done just right; not too mushy, not fried to a crisp. Seasoned just right for me, with no need of a dipping sauce. Now - the grilled turkey club ($9) sandwich, for me, had it's pluses and minuses. On the plus side, the bun option I went with when offered between white, wheat, and jalapeño cheddar, was the latter; and it was absolutely baked-that-day fresh, soft, and delicious. There was a generous amount of turkey and peppered bacon, and the lettuce and tomato were also very fresh. On the minus side, though, were a couple of thoughts. First of all, the turkey is clearly a deli-style, rolled turkey breast, not a roasted, carved bird. This, to me, makes grilling the meat rather - well, silly, really. It also seemed to make it kind of slimy. Or maybe that was the abundance of bacon grease. Or grease from the melting cheddar. Or possibly the melting chipotle mayo. My point is this - the sandwich is served good and hot, which caused for a lot of melting of ingredients to happen. This in turn left me with puddles in my hands, a very wet napkin, and, for the first half of my sandwich, anyway, a rather saturated bun. But because it is a very generous sandwich, I saved the second half for lunch the next day, and had more than enough to split between the two of us when I divvied up the fixings between new bread at home. All in all - I'd give it a seven out of 10, if I was scoring.
The Southern-style Chicken Fried Steak ($12) is hand-battered and served with cream gravy. This was one of only four Chicken Fried Steaks that I have sampled in the past 15 months or so, but I have eaten so many more over the years, that's like riding a bike. A lot of us can relate to the idea of 'that one place' that had the best Chicken Fried Steak, ever. Well, Republic Grille isn't exactly that place for me, however, it may very well be the best in The Woodlands. The breading wasn't three times larger than the steak like it is at some other places and the meat wasn't beat down to paper thin levels. When it comes to chewy versus tender, my steak was comfortably in the middle of these two barometers. I wasn't able to cut it with a fork, but had no problem with the help of my butter knife (the plate does not ship with a steak knife). We all know that cream of mushroom soup is great starter for making gravy, but you can also use good old fashioned milk, flour, black pepper (of course), and a splash of seasoned salt. The cream gravy at Republic Grille tastes suspiciously like cream of mushroom soup and little else aside from the course ground black pepper, which you can easily see. Definitely something about the Chicken Fried Steak, and Chicken Fried Chicken, that mushroom fans can appreciate. The contrast in the flavor between the gravy and steak is a good one, but it leans a bit too far in favor of the mushroom for me. A majority of my steak was a two on a five-point chewy scale (5 = lower jaw pain), while literally only one bite rated a zero on the chewy scale. This is far from a complaint of any kind - in fact, it's a very good score.
The mashed potatoes scored nine out of 10 for great texture and flavor. Minus one due to a lack of black pepper, and the best I've had in The Woodlands. I like more pepper in my green beans as well, but I also prefer them to not be cooked to the extent that mine were. My grandfather once told me that "when you are cooking string beans, and they break apart, well, at that point you have cooked out all of the vitamins." Seemed credible to me when I was five and learning to make fried bologna sandwiches. How many kids do you know that refuse to eat anything green?
The green beans at Republic Grille appear to be slow cooked and maybe even over-cooked, as they had the consistency of what you might call green bean stew; just mushy. Not that it really affected the flavor of the beans, the peppered bacon. Tasting food is more than just noticing the flavor; color and texture also play important roles.
The Republic Grille at Panther Creek brings a much-needed breath of fresh style and good food to The Woodlands. All things considered, it's a great value for your dining dollars. The sleek interior is calm, modern, and comfortable, and the staff is friendly and attentive. We would like to suggest that management consider relocating the hostess stand a little further away from the front door - it's close proximity to the entrance creates some congestion when either entering or exiting the establishment. Both times when we passed through the doorway, there were other guests lined up at the podium, which incidentally, places them directly in front of and blocking the doors. When we first arrived, an initial thought I had upon seeing people against the door was that there would be a wait. Fortunately for us, this was not the case.