37 Union Square West
New York, NY
As they say, in restaurants as in real estate, location, location, location. Republic, a fast-casual spots serving Pan-Asian cuisine, is in an absolutely great location, right across from Union Square in New York City, and that holds much of its appeal. The restaurant is a large and somewhat cavernous, with quasi-communal seats (the tables are connected, but you are not sitting directly next to strangers, unless you are only a group of 2 perhaps). The atmosphere was loud and bustling, and the restaurant seemed to be doing a pretty healthy turnover of tables. We arrived at noon Sunday and the tables were nearly full with the NYU crowd, even so, we didn’t have to wait very long. Republic incorporates its sleek noodle theme into its decor, and the walls are lined with large black and white photos of model-types enjoying (and sometimes wearing) giant piles of noodles.
Yes, the stock in trade at Republic is noodles, namely GIANT bowls of noodles, which we saw most tables guzzling happily. The main influence is Thai, but there are also Vietnamese, Japanese and Chinese flavors. The broth noodles, seemingly the most popular option, had huge portions in included such varieties as Spicy Duck and Curry Vegetable ($11-14). There was also a selection of non-broth noodle and rice dishes, including of course Pad Thai. The globe-trotting theme continues with the drink selection which includes both hot and cold sake, an assortment of Asian Beers and Vietnamese iced coffee. Between two of us we ordered the Spicy Coconut Chicken – rice noodles in turmeric-coconut broth ($14). The portion was truly generous, but the broth and chicken were both a little bland and lifeless. However, we heartily enjoyed the vegetarian dumplings ($7) and the super-flavorful cold Peanut Noodle Salad with carrots and jicama ($11).
While Republic is not a soulful place, you can’t fault the owners for hitting upon a formula that works. Moreover you definitely get a lot of food for your money, and there is something to please herbivores and carnivores alike. It won’t rival our favorite go-to Thai places, but it was a perfect place to meet a group for lunch in NYC. Plus, if you are in a lunch crunch, you will be sure to make your 1 o’clock meeting.