COMMUNITY: Republic, a sign of good things to come

COMMUNITY • BY YEVGENIY TRAPEZNIKOV

“Takoma Park is anticipating a new restaurant in Old Town. Republic — named in honor of the city’s sardonic nickname “The People’s Republic of Takoma Park” — will soon open its doors on Carroll Avenue.”

Republic restaurant is currently redesigning its 3,500 square feet area to accommodate about 80 seats.

It will feature a unique zinc bar and a banquette running along the opposite wall. The restaurant also has acquired antique wallpaper from Paris dating back to 1940s.

Zinc bar covered

Zinc-covered bar. Photo by Yevgeniy Trapeznikov.

The banquette was designed using coaches and sofas found in antique stores.

“Our designer has removed the back of the coaches and kind of joined them all together to form the banquette,” said Danny Wells, one of the two chefs at the restaurant and a Takoma Park native.

Wells started his career at Savory (now Capital Cheese Cake). Later he met Jeff Black and they worked together about five years. The two are now co-owners of Republic, part of the Black Restaurant Group.

The restaurant will sport hardwood floor, originally obtained from old tobacco barns in North Carolina, and tables of reclaimed wood.

The owners will have live bands playing in any of three different locations inside or outside the restaurant on the patio.

“We hope it’s going to be a nice mix,” said Wells. “We’re not sure what kind of [music]. At the time we have a list of about one hundred bands.”

Wells said they will install sound attenuation panels in the ceiling along with speakers. The thick French wallpaper will also work to absorb sound waves to soften restaurant and conversational sounds.

“I’m very excited to have Republic come to town. I think it is going to bring people from neighboring cities because it has such a very good reputation. And it will bring business to us all,” said Elizabeth Brinkama, manager of Now and Then shop, a few yards from the restaurant.

It wouldn’t be Takoma Park, however, without controversy.

“They made a mistake with a sign. The sign is too big and flashy, it does not really fit with the surrounding,” Tom Pierce, former resident of Takoma Park who now lives in DC.

Video American, a movie rental store, was part of that surrounding. The store, whose property Republic now occupies, closed about a year ago. Video American was almost as much a landmark as the Seventh-day Adventist Church nearby. And the store’s former managers – Barry and Annie Solans – are well known in this upbeat suburb.

Church

Another near-by landmark. Photo by Yevgeniy Trapeznikov.

“I grew up going to that video store and renting movies,” said Wells, recognizing that some people may feel nostalgic for the store. “Maybe we’ll even invite Barry to host movie nights. We’d love to do that.”

To pay tribute to community spirit and previous owners, Republic decided to keep the Video American sign (Video American sign) on the patio.

Video American sign

Remembering the previous tenant, Video Americain. Photo by Yevgeniy Trapeznikov.

But even those missing the movie store admit that although there are a few dining places in the area, Takoma Park is currently underserved and has no other restaurants like Republic.

Wells described Republic’s repertoire as “seasonal American.” He said their menu will be in tune with the city’s known vegetarian traditions.

Republic sign

Sign of a new restaurant. Photo by Yevgeniy Trapeznikov.

“It’s not going to be a vegetarian by any means but due emphasis will be made on vegetarian options. Sea food will be well represented on the menu, poultry meats as well as a raw bar.”

Wells and Black hope to open soon. Pepco installed their electricity Nov. 20, and Washington Gas is scheduled to turn on the gas Nov. 22. They await a building inspection, and then they can begin a training period for staff. Wells didn’t want to commit to an opening date, but said it would be “in the next few weeks.”

Republic has a Facebook page and a website.