If anyone has been following the blog–back to when I spent almost every day touting the seemingly simple logic of: Go to bed at a reasonable hour and go to class. This will actually help you save tens of thousands of dollars–then you may know why this restaurant opening was such an exciting idea. Of course, I’m only about 10 minutes away from the old haunts of “downtown” Takoma Park but I’m still not down the creek very often these days. But one night I made plans to meet a friend who lives there (practically around the corner) for dinner one night to celebrate his new job.
For anyone who is familiar with the nicer suburbs of DC, Takoma Park is a bit of an oddball in that it’s classy but it hasn’t been “hip” in a while. It’s also known as the “hippie repository” of the outer DC area. For anyone wondering why that might be, I happen to know exactly why that is: The Seventh-day Adventists.
That’s right, those teetotal religious looneys who happen to have large churches on three major corners within the city, adjoining church offices and schools (elementary and high school), a university (from which I happen to have two degrees), and that rather large hospital (at which I happened to be born). Those were the original vegan hippies hailing from Battle Creek, MI. Spewing the usual Second Awakening Revivalist type nonsense about religion, the SdA’s had this really crazy thing against booze and meat. Some of their other school even to this day don’t have ketchup (because of the vinegar) or pepper in their cafeterias because of the church’s original health message.
So how did this eventually affect my evening’s entertainment? Well what all this means is that Takoma Park, for a very long time was a “dry” city. To this day there are no liquor shops in the city limits and only recently was alcohol even a topic of discussion in many of the local cafe’s and restaurants. Partly, this was due the fact that the church folks practically owned the city (mafia style). Their headquarters were there, their churches, schools… so the actually passed legislation that prevented the type of locales that would bring in the type of people you see in the newer restaurants in DC.
There have been cafe type places in Takoma Park for quite some time. The Capital City Cheesecake right down the sidewalk has been a favorite spot for coffee and pastries for years (since it was Savory’s). It was a rocky start for a place that didn’t seem to fit in with the neighborhood needs but it’s finally found it’s path and looks to be doing well. I enjoy reading my comic books and sipping coffee there many an afternoon when I was still working at the university.
When it comes to restaurants there were Mark’s Kitchen and Middle Eastern Cuisine (from which many of my events at the university were catered) which have both been something like “fixtures” in the area. And we were all curious and twittering in anticipation when Roscoes began to put up signs. Roscoes, by the way, is named after a wild rooster that used to run around Takoma Park and was lovingly named Roscoe by locals. Roscoe was hit by a car and a memorial statue of him now stands where the weekend farmer’s market begins. I learned this all while not being very productive before finals week from a professor of mine.
This photo is clearly somewhat outdated since you should be able to see at least some of the black “Republic” sign on the right. It looks like it was still Video Americana at the time this picture was taken. Video stores, another archaic item… But we were talking about Republic.
Republic, which was oddly just ok this time around. It looks like a nice downtown restaurant but it had the crowd of…well… Takoma Park. We tried the drinks and they were what one would expect from a good DC bar. And the service was great. But the food needs work. It wasn’t bad but it reminded me of a dinner I had once in CA during those beach bum days where the person with me made the experience good but I don’t remember the food. Then again, I’m usually alright with that. in this case, however, something was a bit off. And If I go back and have the same experience I will definitely say something. Because when a sauce for empanadas can be described very quickly as “not-very-good-homemade-mayo” there is a serious problem.
If you’re suddenly very concerned and thinking that this is a place to avoid, think again! Takoma Park is picky. If a restaurant like this can maintain itself in a city that’s fairly closed off yet open minded, please the natives, and yet still draw out downtowners into this rather small off-shoot from the DC diamond that’s something to keep in mind. Republic is still new to the area but I’d be interested to see with what they manage to turn into. They’ve already started off well with their interior designs, menu concepts (no matter what details still need a little tweaking), and the fact that they plan to add a patio and hire a music manager to coordinate.
And from the original article (if you follow the link from the first photo of Republic’s interior) I see a lot of comments about Takoma Park not being funky. And it’s true. Takoma Park is just weird. But in an incredibly homey way. Republic, on the other hand is very SoCal (including the moustaches in some cases). This is a place where you raise a family but as more and more people in my age bracket are starting to do that, we’d like to bring a little more of the inner city into our suburban lives and it’s appropriately being started by someone who knows DC and also happens to be learning very quickly about some of us weird folks who got excited about an italian restaurant/cafe (across the street) named after a community chicken.