Republic is a relative newcomer to the Twin Cities scene, taking over the space formerly occupied by Sgt. Preston's in the Seven Corners area. It is yet another of the area's burgeoning local- and craft-beer-centric establishments, but the food takes on nearly the same importance as the impressive beer selection. Furthermore, it is quite reasonably priced, with nearly all items on the menu coming in at $10 or less.
Republic offers a few decent cheeseburger choices, all made with high-quality 1000 Hills grass-fed beef. I usually try to order the plainest cheeseburger possible at a particular establishment in order to determine the quality of the underlying ingredients without being overwhelmed by any additions. At Republic, this was a bacon cheeseburger with aged cheddar and caramelized onions. Here's the problem: Bacon is cheating. It covers a multitude of cheeseburger sins as it covers the patty, adding salt, crunch, fat, and a smoky flavor, among other things. I decided (on the advice of my clever wife) to order it with the bacon on the side (cooked medium, as usual). Total cost: $9.
It arrived looking fairly promising, with a small mixed-green salad on the side and a dish of what seemed to be house-made ketchup. Nicely melted cheese? Check. Well-seared meat? Check. Toasted bun? Check. Little pile of caramelized onions atop the middle of the patty? Mmm...check. The bacon was one strip cut into two pieces, no additional toppings (lettuce, tomato, etc) were supplied, and the pickles were two small cornichons tucked into the salad at the edge of the plate, nowhere near the sacred burger and henceforth ignored. The cross section showed a patty cooked perfectly medium throughout. Check.
Unfortunately, the promise of burger perfection gave way to the reality of burger slightly-above-averageness. The meat, while cooked properly, seemed completely unseasoned and had, surprisingly, almost no flavor. And while it wasn't dry, per se, it was less juicy than I expected of a burger cooked medium. Both counts indicate a patty made with too-lean beef. And it just gets worse. The caramelized onions, which tasted great sampled alone, just get completely lost amongst the mass of unseasoned beef. And the cheese was so subtle that it similarly was hard to detect its contribution to the overall flavor profile of the burger. The bun: while otherwise fresh-seeming, it was inexplicably somewhat dry. The house-made ketchup was, to me, a miss -- overly sweet and without the vinegary kick of regular ol' Heinz.
Of course, adding the bacon back into the mix changed the whole thing completely. That underseasoned patty was now perfectly complemented by the salty, crunchy pork leading to each bite being a harmonious balance of flavor and texture. The onions and cheese, of course, weren't helped by the addition of the bacon, but I just didn't care at that point.This burger was clearly designed to be a bacon cheeseburger and not just a cheeseburger. Still, bacon alone is not enough to make up for the other fundamental issues with this burger (not juicy enough, too-subtle onion and cheese, dry bun).
In the end, come for the beer but don't expect cheeseburger nirvana.
221 Cedar Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55455