Revivals of Republiks and Scholars
The new year breathed new life into some old establishments that looked like they might become part of the Covid R.I.P. list. The People’s Republik on Massachusetts Avenue between Central and Harvard squares and the Thirsty Scholar near Inman Square went black during the pandemic. The Republik closed after a 23-year run (owner Robert Blair felt it was a good time to retire), but longtime staff got together and decided to launch New Republik. That happened late last year (I was stretching that “new year” some) just down the way from Inman Square on Cambridge Street next to Will Gilson’s Puritan & Co. The space feels much the same, with a needed, light refurb to replace The Rising sports bar. The red-upholstered chrome barstools and high-top tables adorning the vast main room will feel familiar, and there are plenty of well-positioned TVs for sports viewing. (The day I was there, there was a big European soccer viewing crowd.) The menu is bar basic, including pizza, wings and burgers with some unique selections: tuna tartare, Guinness beef stew, cauliflower panini, flautas and tuna tacos. I had that last item, and the corn tortillas were soft and double-layered with large, pink-in-the-middle slabs of sushi-gorgeous ahi, seasoned and seared along the edges. In each pocket was shredded slaw and guac. The menu even has a “Hipster Bullshit” section of specialty ales from the Czech Republic and other far-away dens of beer making. New Republik, which seems to already have notched “neighborhood watering hole” status, is open noon ’til late every day, with an 11 a.m. brunch on the weekends.
Farther up the way on the northern edge of Inman Square and the Somerville-Cambridge line, The Thirsty Scholar has the lights back on under new ownership. The classic old-school pub, dark, cozy and warm, opened in the 1990s and was featured prominently in that Facebook movie, “The Social Network.” Decent sports bar viewing, to be sure, and another weekend brunch spot to add to your list. The regular menu here is also bar basic, but with a peppering of culinary curios such as fried oysters (a next-time try for me, as I love ’em) and carnival fried dough. There’s a fish and chips dish I’ll be back for with my 12-year-old daughter, a new fan of the U.K. staple. Among the basics there’s a burger, a veggie burger version and salads. I had the blackened chicken sandwich (you can get it fried, too) which came not too blackened and with just the right about of cabbage slaw atop and garlic aioli on the side. The potato bun was a nice touch. The thing to have as a side or as an app are the salt and vinegar tater tots. Like the Cape Cod chip version, they’re addictive. They come in Tetris-shaped wedges – weird but cool. Regular tots as a side are a $1 upcharge; these are more but worth every penny. The Scholar hosts pub trivia on Wednesday nights and live music on Thursdays.
Cambridge writer Tom Meek’s reviews, essays, short stories and articles have appeared in WBUR’s The ARTery, The Boston Phoenix, The Boston Globe, The Rumpus, The Charleston City Paper and SLAB literary journal. Tom is also a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics and rides his bike everywhere.