Photo by Katherine Harris
The question of what’s happening to Uptown hasn’t been fully answered yet, but while many were cursing chains for crushing the independent soul of the neighborhood, a funny thing happened: David beat Goliath. Republic is the craft beer bar on the second level of Calhoun Square, while Primebar was the Chicago-based craft beer bar directly below on street level. Whether it was high-design vs. comfort, outsiders vs. local loyalists, who knows, but Primebar is gone and Republic continues to serve beer lovers looking for a more chill, less thumpy rooftop scene. And now with a rekindled relationship, the food is as interesting as the beer.
Chef Keven Kvalsten, who helped open Corner Table with Scott Pampuch, first made a name for himself at The Green Room, a small farm-to-table place in Waconia he co-owned with Matty O’Reilly. After it closed, Kvalsten worked around town, but he is now back with O’Reilly at Republic. While Kvalsten has been known for some refined food, here he sticks to classed-up pub fare. An elemental B.E.L.T. is made great with Fischer Farms bacon, two perfectly runny eggs, and zippy aioli. The Wild Acres turkey burger is sassed up with chunky guacamole, and the fish ’n’ chips are battered with Fulton’s Lonely Blonde and sided by a choppy, tangy house tartar sauce. For a beer drinker who cares about quality, it just hits the spot. Also of note, the veggie section of the menu is not a token, containing plates such as a quinoa burger, mushroom flatbread, veggie tacos, and a righteous grilled cheese.
But if you really want to see Kvalsten’s flourish, sign up for a beer dinner. During a meal paired with Olvalde beers, he put up grilled salmon with a juniper beurre blanc and pork with drunken apples, braised greens, and bacon. There is definitely a food slant to this beer bar, one that will likely keep it anchored with locals among the changing waves of the neighborhood. 3001 Hennepin Ave. S., Mpls., 612-886-2309, republicmn.com —S. M.