“We just kind of opened it all up,” says Jami Bohdan, executive general manager of The Republic and Metro Grill. In addition to converting the front windows into doors to create an open-air restaurant, the updates include new tabletops, light fixtures, bathrooms and a new bar top.
Auggie Lopez, who has been executive chef at The Republic for about a year, will also oversee the Metro Grill menu, but Metro Grill chef Shaun Watts is staying on as kitchen manager. Kevin Mandeville, a previous manager at Metro Grill who most recently worked at Europa, has returned to be the restaurant’s general manager.
Metro Grill will focus on “Southern-style comfort food,” including small plates, entrées, sandwiches and salads, Bohdan says. While The Republic serves more small plates and sandwiches with an international comfort-food focus, entrées make up more of Metro Grill's menu, she says.
Lopez adds that some of Metro Grill's most popular dishes, such as shrimp and grits, Louisiana pasta, po’ boys, Metro Meatloaf, and Mussels Diablo, will be on the menu. Among the additions are a salad with New York strip steak, candied walnuts, gourmet tomatoes, English cucumbers and raspberry vinaigrette.
Meanwhile, The Republic is also adding some entrées and side dishes, Lopez says. Look for a veal chop with a shiraz-portobello reduction and a salmon “char-crusted” with roasted garlic and peppercorns. A graduate of the Louisiana Culinary Institute, Lopez says he likes to blend different culinary styles, such as Creole, Latin and Italian.
Before coming to The Republic, he was a caterer, serving meals at events attended by Virginia governors, as well as former President George W. Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney. After catering business dropped off in the economic downturn, Lopez found stable employment with corporate restaurants, and he helped to open two locations of Quaker Steak and Lube during that time.
“Working for a corporate restaurant as a chef was challenging, but I missed my niche — cooking, creating menus and writing new recipes,” he says.
After a soft opening Wednesday for invited guests, Metro Grill opens to the public for dinner on Friday. The restaurant will open at 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, and it will open for brunch at 11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.