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The best restaurants in Manchester: Republic 

  • Pommes Frittes served with aoli.  Republic on Elm Street in Manchester on March 6, 2013. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Pommes Frittes served with aoli. Republic on Elm Street in Manchester on March 6, 2013.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Republic on Elm Street in Manchester on March 6, 2013. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Republic on Elm Street in Manchester on March 6, 2013.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Republic on Elm Street in Manchester on March 6, 2013. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Republic on Elm Street in Manchester on March 6, 2013.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Chicken Confit served with haricot verts (French green beans) and herbed potatoes. The chicken is from local farmer Peter Allen Farm.  Republic on Elm Street in Manchester on March 6, 2013. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Chicken Confit served with haricot verts (French green beans) and herbed potatoes. The chicken is from local farmer Peter Allen Farm. Republic on Elm Street in Manchester on March 6, 2013.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Cold Antipasti trio, from left to right: Organic carrot masala, whipped spicy fresh feta and red quinoa, beet, and moroccan spices, served with Lebanese bread and olive oil. Republic on Elm Street in Manchester on March 6, 2013. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Cold Antipasti trio, from left to right: Organic carrot masala, whipped spicy fresh feta and red quinoa, beet, and moroccan spices, served with Lebanese bread and olive oil. Republic on Elm Street in Manchester on March 6, 2013.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Maker's Maple. Republic on Elm Street in Manchester on March 6, 2013. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Maker's Maple. Republic on Elm Street in Manchester on March 6, 2013.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Republic on Elm Street in Manchester on March 6, 2013. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Republic on Elm Street in Manchester on March 6, 2013.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Republic on Elm Street in Manchester on March 6, 2013. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Republic on Elm Street in Manchester on March 6, 2013.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Republic on Elm Street in Manchester on March 6, 2013. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Republic on Elm Street in Manchester on March 6, 2013.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Pommes Frittes served with aoli.  Republic on Elm Street in Manchester on March 6, 2013. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Republic on Elm Street in Manchester on March 6, 2013. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Republic on Elm Street in Manchester on March 6, 2013. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Chicken Confit served with haricot verts (French green beans) and herbed potatoes. The chicken is from local farmer Peter Allen Farm.  Republic on Elm Street in Manchester on March 6, 2013. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Cold Antipasti trio, from left to right: Organic carrot masala, whipped spicy fresh feta and red quinoa, beet, and moroccan spices, served with Lebanese bread and olive oil. Republic on Elm Street in Manchester on March 6, 2013. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Maker's Maple. Republic on Elm Street in Manchester on March 6, 2013. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Republic on Elm Street in Manchester on March 6, 2013. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Republic on Elm Street in Manchester on March 6, 2013. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Republic on Elm Street in Manchester on March 6, 2013. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

Republic, on Elm Street in Manchester, with its well-designed signage and cool, post-industrial look, has called to me for a while. I’d popped in once before between assignments in Manchester and picked up an amazing slice of German chocolate cake on the recommendation of the friendly man behind the bar that afternoon. That was my only previous exposure to Republic along with word from a friend, who as if operating on a Pavlovian reflexes, reminds me that he loves the coffee there every time I mention the restaurant’s name.

As an overachieving first-time reviewer, I called ahead to see if I could get a reservation and ask (in my most casual voice) what the chef would recommend. The restaurant doesn’t take reservations for parties of fewer than six, and if there were a shortage of tables, there would certainly be a seats at the bar. The employee on the other end told me that the chef would recommend pretty much everything on the menu.

Three friends and I managed to wrap up work in time to make a Wednesday night meal happen. Despite the slush that coated the highway between Concord and Manchester, we set out for Republic.

Its modern glass and brick façade stands out between the glowing fronts of restaurants with faster fare (pizza places, gyro places, et al). When we entered, we were asked our preference between high-top, bar or booth seating. It was busy, but we were still seated immediately in a cozy booth near the kitchen.

The seating options emphasize the nature of Republic’s intention to serve the community at any time of day, for any purpose, as stated on the restaurant’s website. We chose the booth for its intimacy, but the high top tables are still classy, as is the bar. It’s easy to see hanging out here at any time of day.

When it was time for drink orders, three of us ordered from the list of beers on tap. I ordered the seasonal special on tap, Sea Dog Hazelnut Porter. I’m always a sucker for seasonal beer and this was a new one for me. It’s flavorful and dark; not sweet. It’s a great inclusion on behalf of the owners. A friend ordered from the cocktail menu, which had a surprising list of original creations. His choice: the Maker’s Maple. It was bubbly and not too sweet, while still carrying that whiskey taste and finishing with a bite of ginger beer. Cocktail prices
average $10.

Republic diners get a delicious plate of harassi bread with olive oil to enjoy while looking over the menu, which lacks the plastic laminate of the places I’m used to eating at around here. The Mediterranean-influenced menu changes based on seasonal availability.

To start are warm and cold appetizers – items like Mussels Provencal, Lamb with Yogurt Dill Sauce, and Falafel, each for about $10 or less. The cold antipasti offerings had a three for $10 option, so I tried North African Spiced Pickled Vegetables, Marinated Spiced Olives, and Whipped Fresh Spicy Feta. This is a great deal. The feta was unbelievable, one friend who tried it said “I wish I had just ordered a whole bowl of this.”

The pricier entrée section includes plates like Chicken Confit, Pasta Pesto (our server’s recommended favorite) and Moroccan Lentil Stew. I opted for Falafel Fried Fish. It sounded hot and filling and comes with fresh-cut fries. I love the mild, savory taste of falafel. Our server also explained that folks who love this dish, absolutely, positively love this dish.

Two healthy pieces of cod battered in falafel and fried arrived on a heap of skinny, hand-cut fries with sides of honey mustard and tartar sauce. It was good, quality fish, but I was a little disappointed with the $19 meal. After experiencing so many flavors up to this point – from the drinks to the pickled veggies – the Falafel Fried Fish was a little too subtle. That’s not to say that my affection for Republic ended here.

My friends chose from Republic’s other menu sections – the flatbreads and the warm appetizers – for their dinners and spent at least $15 less than I did. The Spanish Ham Flatbread with Blue Cheese, Figs and Pesto was rich and filling and only cost $10.50.

Another friend ordered the falafel appetizer and was served a beautiful plate of hummus and falafel. The falafel was nice and moist with a mild, earthy flavor.

At the end of our meal, there was no room in my belly to revisit that German chocolate cake, but I did still have room in my budget. My bill for a beer, an antipasti plate and an entree was about $42.

Republic (1069 Elm Street in Manchester, republiccafe.com) opens at 9 a.m. every day with its kitchen closing at 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. The bar stays open till 10 p.m. on weekdays and 11 p.m. on weekends. Parking is relatively easy to find on Elm, but there is also a lot around the block.

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