République may be devoted to French food, but its soul is as Californian as dusk on a stretch of the 405. A San Diego native, chef and co-owner Walter Manzke toggles between cuisines, equally skilled at Gallic garlicky snails with puff pastry domes as he is with locally inspired roasted cauliflower with slivers of Coachella Valley dates. At breakfast the staff is already putting out the towering home-style chocolate cake that’s part of the ambitious pastry program of Walter’s wife, Margarita Manzke. People murmur over steaming coffee and cast-iron pots of shakshouka, the eggs nesting amid strips of roasted pepper in a harissa-laced broth. Dinner is marked by a casual formality. The Kumamotos ring a platter of ice; the strip loin—a gorgeous piece of beef served with poached marrow and bordelaise sauce—can be ordered in two sizes. Wine director Taylor Parsons has the twinkle-eyed enthusiasm of a Parisian bouquiniste, except he’ll guide you away from prestige labels toward an eminently affordable Irancy from Thierry Richoux. Chanterelle mushrooms get strewn over melted raclette cheese layered with ribbons of brown onions on a crisp flatbread; a soft egg breaks open to create the sauce for parsnip ravioli with pancetta. Backlit by the embers under a turning rotisserie, a group looks on as Dover sole meunière is filleted tableside. Afterward it’s Margarita’s griottes tart, the radiance of the cherries amplified by notes of caramel in the rippling crust.
The Vibe: In the morning it has a sleek coffee shop vibe, with laptops outnumbering staff. At lunch, the feel is still low-key, with as many tykes as local business folks enjoying salads and sandwiches. At dinner the joint is hopping, and transforms into a chic, buzzy (read: loud) dining destination.
The Crowd: Again, this changes throughout the day, but expect savvy, in-the-know diners in seek of a good time and a great bite.
The Must-Have Dishes: The menu varies regularly, but at dinner we urge you not to skip the escargots (yes, the snails) capped with puff pastry. Also, eggs on toast are not what you think: uni crowns a dollop of soft scrambled eggs on a bit of baguette. If the salted caramel chocolate cake is on the menu for dessert, get it.
The Drinks: Sommelier Taylor Parsons is, many would say, the best in the biz. Take advantage of his skills and the awesome wine list. Cocktails are killer, too.
Getting a Table: There are no reservations for breakfast and lunch, but that’s not usually a problem. Dinner can be tricky during prime times on weekends, but OpenTable makes things easier.
Insider Tip: Come for brunch. You’ll thank us later.
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