The rebellion isn’t beginning at Rebel Republic Social House, and that’s just fine [RESTAURANT REVIEW]

The rebellion isn’t beginning at Rebel Republic Social House, and that’s just fine [RESTAURANT REVIEW]

by David Mendez

Despite the checkered history of revolutions in our own time, we still sympathize with the passion and daring of rebels. This is true not just for movies, but in marketing food and beverages too. Samuel Adams Brewing makes a Rebel IPA, local bad boys Rebel Coast make wine, and Rebel Republic Social House recently opened in Riviera Village. There’s not that much that’s really rebellious about that restaurant and cocktail spot; it’s part of the Hennessey Group, which is about as establishment as you get in Riviera Village.

The place has a lively, loud vibe inside, and those who enjoy a slightly more sedate dining experience may prefer the outdoor dining deck. On the spectrum between bars that serve food and restaurants that serve booze this is definitely on the bar side, albeit at the high end. The menu is short but interesting and has a lot of shared plates, and even if no alcohol passes your lips you can have a good time here.

Among the elevated bar snacks are fried deviled eggs and French fries topped with a fried egg, bacon, and mornay sauce. It’s all the things we like at breakfast in a stylish package; okay, maybe we don’t usually have mornay sauce with our eggs, potatoes, and bacon, but this makes a case that we should, as the white sauce with gruyere cheese added is better that what you’re probably used to pouring on eggs.

The fried deviled eggs were conventional except for the part about breading and frying the whites. The warm, crisp exterior contrasted nicely with the cool whipped yolk with mustard and herbs, and the topping of bacon crumbles and shredded scallions added bursts of sharp and smoky flavor.

I was less delighted with another starter, the Memphis pork rib that had been topped with a misoyaki sauce. Misoyaki has a sweet and salty flavor that works great on fish, but the heavy-handed dose obscured the spice rub and smoke flavor of these ribs.

We tried three salads, a burrata with fava, one with bacon and lettuce, and albacore with fennel, daikon, and manchego. Favas are going out of season and this may not be available for long, but if it is, order it. The addition of Korean chili threads lends a hint of spiciness to a cool, rich dish, and it’s a standout. The albacore salad had subtle contrasting flavors, and the unlikely combination of fish with fennel, Asian pear, and manchego cheese somehow was complemented with the light grapefruit-mustard dressing. Only the bacon salad was disappointing, because it’s exactly what it said it was – bacon, green heirloom tomato, lettuce, and buttermilk blue cheese dressing. It lacked the finesse of the other salads.   

There are only three entrees on the menu. The olive oil poached salmon with champagne-chimichurri sauce was a hit, and it was more interesting than you could have guessed from the menu description. That mentioned only potatoes accompanying it, but there were also radish slices and sautéed greens that made it balanced both in terms of nutrition and flavor. Chimichurri sauce is usually used for meats in Argentine cooking, but this mild version worked nicely with fish and didn’t overwhelm the other flavors.

The short rib with risotto was another hit. The meat had been braised in a whiskey sauce and was fork-tender, and with the heirloom carrots it was a fine and filling meal. The third entrée was beer-braised chicken topped with crisped chicken skin and a radish slaw. The tart, vinegary, and rich flavors were reminiscent of some Peruvian dishes, but the simple carrots and mashed potatoes on the side didn’t provide a contrasting flavor. There’s something missing in this dish, and it wasn’t up to the standard of the others.

The only sandwich we tried was the seared salmon toast, which was garnished with radishes, tomato, and lettuce and dusted with olive oil and chopped dill. The big piece of fish was supposed to be served with house fries and a pickle according to the menu, but those never showed up, and when we asked we were told vaguely that they changed that. It was the only error in the service, but it was a considerable one – we should have been told before.

The beer and brown liquor list at Rebel Republic are remarkable, particularly their American whiskies, and the cocktails are very well made. On one visit we were accompanied by an avid cocktail fan who praised the way that flavors were combined in their original drinks. This is a serious mixology place in an area that doesn’t have many of them, and they are at the top of their game.

What you spend at Rebel Republic depends on what you drink. The most expensive food items are only twenty bucks and sandwiches run between fourteen and sixteen, but those drinks are tasty and can add up. On our second visit a party of four spent about $105 on food, $80 on drinks. By Riviera Village nightspot standards that’s pretty good, and I’d happily go back. Rebel Republic is exploring contemporary ideas rather than rebelling against anything in particular, but it’s an upgrade to the neighborhood. 

Photo credit: Brad Jacobson

Dining decks gateway to pedestrian-friendly Riviera Village

Dining decks gateway to pedestrian-friendly Riviera Village

by David Mendez

Located in the heart of Riviera Village, Rebel Republic Social House launched with a soft opening on April 23, seeking to bring in the 21- to 25-year-old crowd often found in the bars and restaurants of nearby Hermosa Beach.

But the Village’s newest restaurant might signal an even greater change to the popular South Redondo shopping district.

Rebel Republic’s draw is an outdoor dining deck, the first in a City of Redondo Beach-initiated pilot program. The program aims to create a more aesthetically-pleasing, outdoor-friendly Catalina Avenue corridor, and the location was one of two sites considered for dining decks; a second location was identified for the space in front of Redondo Beach Brewing Company and Zazou. However, only Rebel Republic applied to the program.

The deck is already paying dividends for the restaurant, which is still at least a week away from its grand opening. “If the weather’s nice, [the deck’s] the place to be,” said Rebel Republic manager operating partner Andrew North.

It has had detractors, most prominently on the neighborhood-based social media network Nextdoor. Users have complained about both about aesthetics and the loss of three parking spaces caused by the installation of the deck. “If the other restaurants follow suit, wouldn’t we be eliminating precious parking, ultimately forcing cars into the nearby residential neighborhoods?” a Nextdoor post asked.

As it stands, Rebel Republic owner Paul Hennessey has offered three spaces behind his HT Grill restaurant as a replacement for the spaces lost.

But District 1 councilman Jeff Ginsburg said that a different parking solution has been discussed: Catalina Avenue could be narrowed. “Right now, it’s a very wide roadway, and narrowing would allow for additional parking,” Ginsburg said. “And, when you narrow a street, that slows traffic down naturally; people are more cautious, and they drive slower…it’d be safer for everyone, a win-win.”

The dining deck program, which was long a part of the city’s strategic plan, may also coincide with another recently-adopted plan item: A conversion of Catalina Avenue to a one-way road between Avenues I and Elena Avenue. That, Ginsburg said, would go a long way toward improving the walkability of the Village. “That would open up a lot of possibilities, including allowing bike lanes,” Ginsburg said. “I think it’d be a big win.”

That item is still in early review stages, and isn’t due to be discussed by council until September, City Manager Joe Hoefgen confirmed.

But expanded outdoor dining options could only happen if the pilot program passes muster — which, according to Ginsburg, relies on finding dining decks to be more beneficial to the area than not. “If there was crazy partying and police calls going on out there, I think that would be an unsuccessful program,” Ginsburg said. “But the times I’ve walked by there, I haven’t seen anyone acting out of hand — and I actually think it’s calmer than Mickey Finnz,” the restaurant concept replaced by Rebel Republic.

As for neighboring businesses, the consensus regarding the dining decks appears to be somewhere between jealousy and excitement. Ginsburg says that restaurants up and down the Village are interested in building decks of their own. Retail businesses are excited as well.

“Is it a loss of parking, or is it an opportunity to have excited customers?” Zosia Ware, of Safari Hat and Clothing Company, said. “We’re excited about something new with an opportunity to have more people excited to be here.”

Photo credit: David Mendez

Craft Beer-Loving Rebel Republic Flips Former Mickie Finnz in Redondo Beach

by Farley Elliott 

Though Mickie Finnz on Catalina Avenue in Redondo Beach is no more, don’t be surprised to see owner Paul E. Hennessey still kicking around. He’s the familiar name behind the latest iteration of that space, to be called Rebel Republic Social House, opening sometime later this spring.

If you aren’t familiar with Hennessey directly, you likely know his work. This Patch articlefrom 2013 does a great job of laying it all out, from the dozen or so Hennessey’s Taverns floating around Southern California to Mickie Finnz (which now only exists in Las Vegas) to The Wine Bistro in Dana Point. Hennessey owns the upcoming Rebel Republic address on Catalina, which is why over the years he’s flipped it from one concept to another — including this latest turn as a craft beer-focused ‘social house.’

There’s no menu to speak of yet, but Rebel Republic calls itself a home for ‘rustic comfort food,’ with both ‘global and domestic influence.’ There will also be craft cocktails alongside the South Bay’s mandatory beer selection, spread across a large restaurant with room for bar seating, a small lounge, an interior dining room for a more comfortable dinner experience, and a patio.

Per Facebook, the place seems ready to come together sometime later this spring. There’s still plenty of construction going down inside, though they are hiring up already, which would seem to indicate that it won’t be much longer. This Rebel Republic in Redondo seems to be the first iteration of what could very well become part of a growing California brand for Hennessey and his team, considering the millenial overtones and craft beer push. But for now, it’s just this single outlet on Catalina Avenue, coming later this spring.