225 West Crogan Street, Lawrenceville GA 30046 (map); 678-205-4782; thelocalrepublic.com
Cooking Method: Flat top
Short Order: Newish gastropub offers eight well-constructed burgers in a cool atmosphere
Want Fries with That? No fries, and the cheffy-sounding sides didn't impress. Stick with chips.
Mstrong>Price: Republic, $8; The Bruiser, $11; The Sink, $13
Are there certain words that just jump up and down on your very last nerve? Moist is one for me. Chitchat, another. Boobs. Jamboree. (Thankfully, you just don't hear that last one very often unless you're a camp counselor.) The latest eye-roller on my list, though, is gastropub. I think Kenji hit the nail on the head with his addendum to our AHT burger taxonomy, recommending the inclusion of the gastropub burger as its own unique-albeit-tricky-to-pin-down genre, but I still cringe when I hear the word.
To me, it's an overly pretentious way of saying "a hip bar that also pays genuine attention to its food." (Although that's admittedly a bit clumsy to whip out in casual conversation.) Odd, really, since the word generally describes a place that tries to otherwise downplay any perceived pretentiousness.
My own terminology issues aside, gastropub is how Local Republic classifies itself. And seeing as how downtown Lawrenceville isn't exactly a five-star foodie destination, I get why the management may feel the need to stress that they're serious about what they do. After sampling a few offerings from their burger menu, they can call themselves whatever they want. I'm here to tell you that Local Republic is way serious about burgers...and I've got no beef with that.
The space looks to be one of those old-corner-service-stations-turned-restaurants that are seemingly everywhere now. The interior is small and noisy, but with its eclectic vibe, tons of local art on display, and a functional garage door leading to an outdoor patio that's reportedly soon to double in size, Local Republic is a thoroughly comfortable spot to hang out and work your way down the craft beer list.
Or the burger list. There are currently eight, ranging from the bare-bones Republic to the Mr. Jones (pimento cheese, jalapeños, bacon) to the Dirty Sancho (beef tinged with chorizo spices, onion, avocado, pico de gallo, jalapeños) to the fireball stunt burger called the Patrick Swayze (topped with Ghost pepper salsa...get it?). And then there's this deceptively simple-looking bit of badassery. (Yes, I'll bitch about words I don't like...and then make up my own. Deal.)
That's the Bruiser ($11). The kitchen starts with its standard eight ounces of regionally-produced Brasstown Beef and dusts it with Cajun seasonings. It's cooked to order on a flattop until blackened on the outside, and then topped with bacon strips and a huge disc of Stilton cheese.
Lots of joints will top a burger with blue, but going the extra mile for true English Stilton speaks to LR's commitment to their gastropub billing. I found it not to be overpowering at all—surprising, given how much of it there was—and, in fact, quite complementary and proportionate to the thick and chewy-yet-crisp bacon, the soft and sturdy wheat bun, and the hefty amount of rosy-hued beef.
That's the cross-section of the Republic ($8), but it's representative of how every burger I tried was cooked. Clearly, the griddleman at Local Republic knows what he's doing, as all three burgers displayed excellent char while maintaining a pink, juicy (fine, use moist if you want) interior. My only knock on the Bruiser was that I didn't taste any of those Cajun spices; maybe the Stilton just KO'd them with its rich creaminess. But I'd definitely get in the ring with this burger again.
I'm on an egg kick as of late, so I couldn't stay away from The Sink ($13), topped with cheddar, bacon, jalapeños, a sunny-side-up egg, and "whatever the kitchen wants to throw on." I was slightly worried that things were going to get weird (or that the kitchen would decide that I looked like a chump in need of a Roadhouse-caliber beatdown from the Patrick Swayze*), but what I got was an agreeable add-on of pickles, goat cheese, and housemade jicama slaw. (Jicama slaw?!? A step up from bar grub, indeed.) It worked beautifully, with just enough crunch and tang to balance out the silky yolk, mild heat, and meaty foundation.
* Our server Richard explained that the kitchen never gets too crazy with the improvisations; they save that for unsuspecting employees. Starting one dayshift still hurting from the night before, he was offered some pizza that the owner had whipped up for the staff. Note to Slice'rs: ghost chile pepper salsa as a pie sauce is NOT a good idea.
If anything left me underwhelmed at Local Republic, it was the sides. Fries are not an option, and while the alternative offerings sounded plenty tasty, the pimento cheese grits and bacon mac and cheese that showed up at my table were subtle to the point of being bland and totally lackluster. Neither was worth the $1.50 upcharge in my book. Best side of the night? A bag of Zapp's chips. (Mmm, Cajun Crawtaters.)
I'd definitely revisit Local Republic, even if I weren't in a burger mood. From a jerk chicken breast with root beer reduction to a serious-looking pork chop and even shrimp and grits, they're working hard to live up to that gastropub tag. "A hip bar that pays extra attention to their food?" I'll vouch for that. Vouch. There's another word I don't care for...
About the Author: Todd Brock lives the glamorous life of a stay-at-home freelance writer in the suburbs of Atlanta. Besides being paid to eat cheeseburgers for AHT and pizzas for Slice, he's written and produced over 1,000 hours of television and penned Building Chicken Coops for Dummies. When he grows up, he wants to be either the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys or the drummer for Hootie & the Blowfish. Or both.