It's been about two years since The Republic Grille opened in the Panther Creek Shopping Center, and business couldn't be any better. In fact, it's so good that Terry McBurney has opened a second location in the far west end of The Woodlands, on the FM2978 facing side of Terramont Retail Center (corner of Woodlands Parkway and FM 2978). Many other would-be restaurateurs should take notice, this is how you do it; with great service and excellent food cooked right, the first time and every time. These of course aren't the only ingredients for a prosperous restaurant, but they are certainly very important. And many restaurants, both Mom & Pop as well as the chains have tried and failed in The Woodlands by not adhering to this kind of business model.
Today (June 6) was opening day, and as we arrived, everyone has a smile on their face and seemed genuinely happy to see guests approach as they open the door upon entry.
As we mentioned earlier, The Republic Grille just opened, and while fully functional, there were a few details to be tended to. Like the Panther Creek location this store also features stone accents, ample seating, as well as an outdoor patio for casual dining and/or drinks. The portico has yet to be completed but is sure to be a nice addition to the full service restaurant.
We started with an appetizer dish of Mac & Cheese Bites ($8) with their house-made jalapeño ranch dressing; if you like the Bacon Jalapeño Macaroni and Cheese side dish, you are sure to like this too. The al dente pasta and creamy blend of cheeses is wrapped in a delicate Panko crumb blanket and lightly fried until crisp and golden. The dish is offered in two sizes, six and ten; we humbly suggest if there are two or more in your party, you'd better get the ten pack; they are that good.
Well, after my feigned attempt to eat just one of the Mac & Cheese Bites and I knew I'd better do something if I was going to try to stay a little "healthier" in my meal selection. Fortunately, The Republic Grille menu has enough diversity that it's an easy thing to be a sinner or a saint, diet-wise. I opted for the TRG Salad ($13); grilled chicken, dried cranberries, mild goat cheese, red grapes, sweet-n-spicy pecans (that Republic Grille makes in house), and sliced strawberries. Dressing is your choice, and I went with the Strawberry Vinaigrette. All of the dressings are also made in house, and like everything else on the menu, it certainly doesn't disappoint. The chicken had a nice, wood-fired grill flavor to it, mildly seasoned and not dried out. The spices on the chicken were well-balanced and complimented by the pecans, the fire of the spicy seasonings tamed by the creamy goat cheese, and contrasted with the sweet strawberries and grapes. The strawberry vinaigrette is a great dressing for this salad; light and sweet without being overly so. The mixed greens were quite fresh, nary a wilted leaf in the bowl. The only drawbacks in my mind were slight - I would have liked a little more goat cheese (which I could have asked for and didn't, so that is on me, really) and really about half the greens. Once I'd finished the chicken I was comfortably full, and the amount of greens I had left felt wasteful; I hated to see them thrown out.
The Southern-style Chicken Fried Steak ($17) is hand-battered and served with cream gravy and this one was likely the best I've ever had.
Chicken Fried Steak Heaven
My new standard for Chicken Fried Steak is Republic Grille - it will be the one by which all others are measured. This steak was utterly delicious and all future attempts will be gauged against this one. This hand-battered, pan-fried beef steak - served with cream gravy, two sides, and a slice of Texas toast, actually comes with a serious looking steak knife, but you won't need it. All you really need are your hands, this thing was so tender, I swear I could have sliced off a bite with my pinky finger! There was only one, yes, just one bite that had that ominous, rubbery/chewy factor; and oddly enough, it was my first bite. The rest was simply perfect. The crispy, golden crust was in layers like leaves on a vine, each perfectly formed and flavorful. I got the large size on this visit, initially thinking that I would be taking some home with me... well, that didn't happen. The garlic mashed potatoes were average - which is to say not too bad but nothing to write home about, and not as hot as the green beans or the steak upon arrival - and a little on the dry side. The green beans seasoned with bacon were very tasty and serving them in a small bowl works out great because it retained a lot of the heat; they were still warm even after I had finished the steak. I also noted that the green beans I had this night compared to those in our prior review were much more visually appealing; a lot like that chicken fried steak was incredibly visually appealing. Did I mention how good that steak was?
The Bottom Line
Though over the past couple of years we've eaten at the original Republic Grille in Panther Creek, we're thrilled to have another location a little closer to home for us (in "the back" of The Woodlands), and as a sign of continuing success for Mr. McBurney. Since our initial visit almost two years ago to the day, we've noted a few tweaks and changes that have all seemingly been for the better. What moderate complaints we had in the past have all but dissolved into the ether of time and space. And with service as good as staff members like Dylan provide, under the watchful eyes of managers like Neely and Ginger - both who we observed stopping by every table as we ate, all working in harmony with a kitchen staff that is performing at high caliber, we're sure this location will be every bit as successful as its predecessor.
The Republic Grille at Terramont Retail Center (adjacent to Sterling Ridge Village) is a fabulous addition to the underwhelming restaurants in far west end of The Woodlands. This area is in great need of some good competition for your dining dollars and TRG has just raised the bar. The nearby Blue Mug Cafe, and Mei Wei, just to name a couple in the area, are likely to take a hit now that one of the bigger players has a table in the game.
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