Since opening across from Colorado Springs City Hall three years ago, Brewer's Republic has firmly embedded itself in the local craft-beer circuit, joining the likes of Front Range Barbeque and Trinity Brewing Co. as places where even the most devoted hop-head might find something surprising. Popular local blog Focus on the Beer stages many of its events there, while one of the site's writers — Aly Hartwig, founder of the Brewers Broads group — has launched from a bartending role at the Republic to working as an assistant brewer at Pikes Peak Brewing Co. in Monument.
In short, the bar's been a hit, which is why its next-door neighbor, The Underground, bought it earlier this year. "We saw things we could change to make it better, but we felt the concept was a winner," Underground co-owner Jerry Morris told the Indy on July 3. "It's built a nice following, and it's got a ton of potential."
To that end, we were told we'd find more spirits, more taps, more food and more operating hours. The upstairs patio was going to host full-service dinners, for which Morris said he'd hired a new chef to help "step the food up a notch."
Well, sitting in the bar-turned-restaurant seven weeks later, we actually did hear about somebody new in the kitchen, but it was via a runner from the Underground telling our absentee bartender why somebody's nachos were burnt to hell. And to put that in its proper light, let me just say that when we first showed up and asked what was different, our bartender blankly replied, "Not much." This kicked off our 55-minute wait by the windows that was devoid of food, refills or anything resembling a concerned presence.
But hey, our Not Just a Nacho ($8.75) appetizer did eventually arrive — along with all the rest of our food — and ours wasn't burnt. It was congealed solid. "The flaky chips are nice, though," I would have told our server, had she ever come back to ask, "as is the chipotle salsa."
I somehow missed the fact that the steak sandwich ($10.25) is actually just an inch-thick hunk of tender beef served open-face on a piece of garlic bread. The menu did say so, though, and it actually wasn't bad, if you like holding your meat. The Thai Zai pizza ($10.25) had a better crust than it did flavor; while the zingin' veggie and kale salad ($8) successfully combined citrus notes, bleu cheese, vegetables and quinoa.
An empty restaurant one Friday afternoon offered a somewhat better experience, with a different employee getting our generic jalapeño poppers ($4.75) out first. Like before, we were told the upstairs patio was locked, and that service is unavailable even when it isn't locked. At the table, a thick alfredo sauce clung to the al dente noodles of that day's pasta special ($8) in much the same way that food that's been sitting under a heat lamp does; but the smoked turkey sandwich ($8.50) — on thin, buttery white bread that leaves tiny crumbs on your fingers — paired meaty juiciness with green chile sweetness.
We also threw fried Oreos ($2.75) and Twinkies ($2.75) into the mix, which helped everything. Plus, this time we were actually wished a nice day when we left. Nothing was said the time before, though to be fair, I'm not sure our bartender ever really knew we were there.