We strive to be a food and beverage operation that caters to the immediate area, a neighborhood place where families and young couples can come and enjoy themselves,” said Petro Drakopoulos, co-owner with restaurateur Keith Omand of Republica — Food and Drink Revolution in Berkley.
Since opening in September, I’m happy to report that Republica rocks.
The story goes that Drakopoulos, most recently the general manager of Texas de Brazil in Downtown Detroit, moved from Chicago in 2011 to marry Omand’s daughter, Alexis. Drakopoulos previously held corporate management posts with Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches and Marriott Renaissance Hotel.
The partners sought “a great location for a restaurant in an underserved area” and believe they’ve found it in Berkley. Republica is across Coolidge Highway from Huntington Woods and a couple blocks north of Oak Park’s 11 Mile Road border.
The former Berkley Bistro & Cafe looks different with exposed ceiling rafters. The poured-concrete floor, nicely polished, replaced carpeting. Red walls and a concrete bar below tin ceiling tiles are new at the entrance.
The dining room has slatted chairs reclaimed from a Detroit restaurant and refurbished pews from a Livonia church. Wooden tabletops came from the former restaurant-tavern owned by Omand and his wife, Georgiann Mitchell-Omand. Punching up the space are colorful paintings, some of Detroit landmarks, by the late Greg Stephens. A wooden booth — dubbed the “penalty box” — displays Omand’s hockey memorabilia.
Mitchell-Omand, a dietitian, helped create the menu and sometimes cooks with her husband and Drakopoulos’ brother, Dino. In 1949, her grandparents opened the original Mitch’s Tavern on Cass Elizabeth Lake Road, a mainstay in the Oakland County lakes area. Her father, Bill Mitchell, succeeded them. She and Omand operated Mitch’s II in Waterford until 2003.
“We’ve included a lot of classic items people remember, such as ribs and Greek salad, from the Mitch’s restaurants,” Drakopoulos said.
I can vouch for the flavorful, tangy-sweet barbecue sauce slathered on ribs. Hand-cut fries accompany them and also come with the fish and chips. Bob Kahn of Huntington Woods, dining with his family, got a generous portion of the fresh-tasting fish.
“He’s picky, and said it was fabulous,” said Kahn’s wife, Yona.
A dining companion said Republica’s made “the best grilled cheese she’d ever had,” but thought the soup “tasted like pasta sauce,” said Yona. I tried the same tomato fennel soup and found it overly thick and tart. I should have noticed that menu items are sometimes followed by the letters “GF” for gluten-free, “V” for vegetarian and “VI” for vegan. This non-creamy soup has all three.
“We strive for freshness and justice for eaters, no matter what their dietary needs,” said Drakopoulos about the three options. “Our kitchen has a grill and deep fryer especially dedicated to gluten-free cooking.”
Republica is a gastro pub serving quality meals because, he said, “there’s no excuse to go to a bar and have soggy burgers and other kinds of poorly made food.”
The popular 10-ounce Revolution Burger offers smoked Gouda, bacon, tomato, fried egg, onion ring, arugula and spicy srirachannaise. Berkley’s Sugar Kisses Bakery supplies the burger’s brioche bun and other gluten-free bread.
I agree with Drakopoulos that Flower Roast is the best small plate. The roasted head of cauliflower, thyme-garnished, comes with walnut garlic sauce — and a steak knife.
Also good but small is Greenhouse Pie: Swiss chard, braised leeks, fennel and feta cheese baked in a flaky pastry puff.
The black Republica logo puts “pub” in red, indicating this is a full-service bar. Most craft beers come from Michigan.
“We have a fresh fruit cocktail culture, a take-off on the cocktails of 1970s and ‘80s,” said Drakopoulos, a former bartender.
The Berkley 10 Step cocktail he invented is raw sugar, muddled blueberries, Tanqueray gin and Pimm’s Liqueur, topped with tonic water.
“This cocktail, and our Basil Blood Orange Gimlet, are the most popular.”
1999 Coolidge Hwy.
Berkley, MI 48072
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