Restaurant Review: Bristol Republic
The announcement of Bristol Republic as a replacement for Basil in the Short North might have raised a few eyebrows. For those frustrated with the neighborhood’s sprawling popularity and the accompanying departure of small, artisanal operations, the specter of something possibly bro-country — a concept that evokes flashbacks of faux honky tonks with dueling-pianos — Bristol Republic would be the final insult.
It hasn’t turned out that way, though. Not at all. Sure, Bristol Republic is certainly popular, and its commitment to both country music and television screens is evident from the moment you walk in. But Bristol Republic has also made a few culinary commitments that distinguish it immediately. One such commitment comes from an ongoing relationship with the revered Smoked on High. While the newbie’s menu is not identical to that of Smoked’s, you’ll find its influence infused in Bristol’s offerings.
Literally, “infused,” because Bristol’s menu features meats that are also smoked, permeating the offerings with outdoorsy flavor. Consider the House Brisket, which you can score solo or in a sandwich ($12) with chips and slaw. Per the menu, it’s smoked 18 hours. The process yields tender, juicy beef that retains enough firmness to be recognizable, and a seriously deep, distinct smokey accent.
The Hickory Smoked Wings ($12) are maybe less successful. They look promisingly meaty, but the smoke hasn’t really come through, even with ample meat on the bones. One of the sauces will do the heavy lifting here —just the straightforward bourbon barbecue does fine with a full-bodied sweet n’ boozy contribution.
Wandering away from the smoker, the absolute favorite item right now is the Buffalo Chicken Mac & Cheese ($11). Appealingly ridiculous in its excess, the dish is luxe, and theme-appropriate for a good-time-joint. It overruns its creamy mac foundation with buffalo-sauced crunchy chicken, drizzled with blue cheese dressing to take it all right over the top. There’s a lot going on, texturally, and all of that added brine and heft from the dressing delivers joy from the first to the last bite.
While the menu isn’t actually that large, there’s a lot to explore, with more item options that include fried chicken and burgers. For snackers, there’s a couple cool things to investigate: the house deviled eggs (Anna B’s Deviled Eggs, $5) offer an opportunity to appreciate the contributions of burnt ends, which are truly the best, most flavorful bits of meat from ribs. And there are house-made Tator Tots too, that are priced at $4. Truly, perfect pods of fried potato goodness, crackling outside, soft inside, and set at a price that is below market for artisanal tots.
At the end, it would have to be the Brookie ($7). Again, generously sized, it’s a chocolatey brownie-cookie mutant. It’s served quite warm and topped with cold buckeye ice cream and smoked caramel. Not sure the smoke element comes through in the caramel sauce, but honestly, it doesn’t matter. The rest of the combo is transcendent.
After the end, there would be the bourbon. Bristol Republic makes a serious commitment there, too, including its own private label single barrel bourbon created by Watershed Distillery. If that’s not your flavor, the menu offers more than 40 others, along with whiskey, rye, and beer. House cocktails include a thoroughly respectable Back Porch Tea with the addition of honey, lemon and, of course, bourbon.
And for those who want to play cowboy, there’s always the Bristol Punch. It’s made with Everclear.
Bristol Republic can be found at 1124 N. High St.
For more information, visit bristolrepublic.com.