There’s always something going on at Republic, and that’s not just changing out their kegs amongst their whopping selection of beers. Since last year’s unceremonious closing of the Calhoun Square location, fans have been curious what their next growth plan would be in addition to the original 7 Corners location. The next step, announced last week, is the expansion of their Red River Kitchen food truck in conjunction with St. Paul’s unique City House building along the riverfront. It will be St. Paul’s answer to specialized park restaurants like Sea Salt and Sandcastle in Minneapolis.
Limited to special events and wedding rentals, the city-owned building on the pier has tempted Republic and Red River Kitchen co-owner Matty O’Reilly on his daily bike rides. Inspired by the building and noting the lack of local eateries along Shepherd Road, O’Reilly approached the city to see what could be done with the building, which is prone to flooding—which makes operating a commercial kitchen in the space cost prohibitive. “The challenges outweighed the impact you could make in the summer,” he says. But he’s found a workaround with the growth of Red River Kitchen at City House.
Launched two years ago, the Red River Kitchen truck has a growing following of its own, and O’Reilly was looking to expand. In purchasing a second truck, the opportunity to merge ideas struck. City House will feature a seasonal permanent Red River Kitchen truck at the space while using the inside as a prep kitchen. It will be counter service, with a menu of health conscious choices including sandwiches, tacos, noodle and rice bowls, and appetizers. Fun items, says O’Reilly, but nothing deep fried. For the menu, it will be a mix of familiar Red River Kitchen offerings plus new creations developed by JD Fratzke the Saint Paul based chef and restauranteur who has built a legion of followers for his locally-sourced food at his restaurants the Strip Club Meat & Fish and Saint Dinette. “It’s a permanent, temporary brick and mortar,” he explains.
Red River Kitchen at City House anticipates opening soon, possibly as soon as late next week. The picnic tables and more have already been set and will open annually from May through October. Operating at City House connects perfectly with the brand, as the original Red River ox cart trail ran nearby.
Republic is also on track to open the airport offshoot at MSP in early September. The restaurant will operate in the same spirit as the original location. “It will be very like-minded,” O’Reilly says, with the feel of a pub but also an attention to food.
“I think our brunch and breakfast offerings are really good but don’t get a lot of attention,” he says of their original space. The MSP location will feature a daily breakfast menu while the 7 Corners building only serves this menu on weekends. Over two years since he first entered discussions, he’s excited to be open for business at the airport. Republic MSP will also be a music venue in partnership with McNally-Smith College of Music.