Every once in a while you find a place that feels like home when you first enter. There’s just something so comforting, so reassuring about it that you know your initial visit will be the first of many. For me, Republique is that kind of place.
That wasn’t my initial impression. There’s always a long queue on weekends snaking outside the closed front door. It’s located on the trendy side of La Brea Boulevard, and parking is miserable. In fact, it took a recommendation from my friend Britney, the co-creator of Confessions of a Food Tourist, one of the 12 L.A. foodie Instagram accounts good enough to eat, to finally try it.
So on a sunny Southern California Saturday morning I braved the half-hour-long line and finally opened the heavy front door to enter the cavernous building. The space is old and stately, but somehow welcoming, probably because of the young, gracious staff.
Dining at Republique, especially at brunch, is a quintessential L.A. experience, but in the best way possible. After all, the restaurant is housed in a building that was originally an apartment constructed for Charlie Chaplin’s child bride. The space has now been opened up, so that light streams through windows in the impossibly high cathedral ceiling. There’s so much sunshine flooding in that it feels that you’re dining alfresco. The crowd’s an L.A. crowd too–diverse and beautiful.
Of course, all that would be lost if the food was unimpressive. But chef Walter Manzke, who has overseen the kitchens at such L.A. haute cuisine palaces as Patina and Church and State, has turned his attention to creating simple, populist fare with distinction. Most of the menu items and ingredients are familiar, but he transforms the pedestrian into the divine.
Take, for example, the waffle. Now, you can get a waffle at Coco’s. But these waffles are so light that it seems they’ll float off your plate. And the accompanying Vermont maple syrup tastes like it was just tapped from a tree. Or try the cinnamon roll. It nearly crackles with crispness, and the tart raisins embedded in the crust raise the cinnamon roll game to a new level.
Now, this was just my first visit. I’ll be writing more posts about this place in the future. I need an excuse to go back.