Among Republica's specialties are the Village Burger (lamb) and a roasted beet and arugula salad. (Steve Perez / The Detroit News)
Big corporate restaurants gave Petro Drakopoulos his start in the business, in Chicago at the Marriott Renaissance and then in downtown Detroit at Texas de Brazil. But now that he has his own place, it’s quite a different story.
His year-old Republica, with the accent on pub, is the quintessential neighborhood spot, decked out with sports memorabilia and paintings by local artists. There are just 55 seats counting those at the small bar at the entrance. It’s a good fit with its location in the low-key suburb of Berkley.
Drakopoulos works in the kitchen, where he is co-chef with his mother-in-law and business partner, Georgiann Omand, whose late father, Bill Mitchell, ran the popular Mitch’s Restaurants on Cass Lake and Keego Harbor for 40 years. The last Mitch’s closed in 2005, but some of its dishes are being revived at Republica, including the excellent meaty little ribs gently coated with house barbecue sauce and easily parted from their bones. Big Greek salads are another vestige of the old days.
But the menu has lots of touches that the patrons of Mitch’s wouldn’t recognize. The take-off on the BLT, for example. Republica calls it a BLTD for its components of bacon, kale, tomato and duck, served on whole wheat toast. Roasted beet and arugula salad is another contemporary touch, and kale rears its head again in the spin-off of Caesar salad that includes it, and, if you wish, Portuguese sardines instead of anchovies. (When will the kale fad quietly go away?)
Like any self-respecting pub, there’s a good burger at $9, served either classically simple, with just tomato, lettuce and onion, or embellished with toppings of bacon, smoked gouda, fried egg, onion ring, arugula and spicy mayonnaise, at $14. Both include the very good skin-on fries served in generous portions.
Service is friendly and accommodating, and an apron-wrapped Drakopoulos often pops out of the kitchen to chat with patrons. In addition to its indoor seating, at uncovered tables with big dishtowel napkins (and lots of packaged hand-wipes for those who order ribs), there are more seats on the covered patio.
Republica is just one of many modest neighborhood pubs scattered throughout the area, but the menu has enough signature touches to give it some style points.
A word about our star ratings: One star equals routine; two, good; two and a half, very good; three, excellent; and four, outstanding, taking into account all of the elements of dining: food, atmosphere and service. Four is the top rating.
1999 Coolidge north of 11 Mile, Berkley
Call: (248) 268-3175
Rating: 2½ stars (out of 4)
Hours: noon-11 p.m. Mon.-Sat.,
10 a.m.-3 p.m. brunch Sun.
Prices: Small plates $6-$10, soups and salads $5-$9,
burgers and sandwiches $9-$12, entrees $13-$23.
Credit cards: All major
Liquor: Full bar with emphasis
on local beers
Noise level: Moderate
Parking: Attached lot
Wheelchair access: No barriers