In the just over two years since República opened, the tasting menu restaurant has become one of the flagships of Portland’s restaurant landscape. Its approach to Mexican cuisine — informed by history, politics, and ethnobotany — helped República attract nationwide recognition and a James Beard Award nomination. Riding that wave of success, the team behind the restaurant went on to form its own restaurant group, República & Co., opening two more restaurants this spring, plus another in mid-October. By the end of 2022, the restaurant group will open four more businesses.
República & Co. has not been without its growing pains, with restaurants changing concepts to fit the needs of pandemic-era dining; additionally, founding chef Lauro Romero stepped down from República, instead reviving his longstanding pop-up, Clandestino. However, the restaurant group is still forging ahead: Restaurateur Angel Medina and newly appointed culinary director (and former executive pastry chef) Olivia Bartruff continue on their mission of telling socio-political stories of Mexico through its food, ingredients, and the people who produce them. As República & Co. grows, Medina and Bartruff are choosing to invest in their own, opening restaurants, a coffee shop, and a bakery run by longtime employees, collaborators, and other young talent around Portland. We break down the highlights below:
República’s newest sister restaurant serves Pacific Northwestern cuisine through a Mexican American lens, specifically the meticulous lens of chef Juan Gomez, formerly the chef de cuisine at República; the restaurant is named after his late mother. The South Waterfront spot is meant to reflect casual neighborhood establishments in Mexico that typically feature a special of the day. At Lilia, this includes dishes like diver scallop aguachile, crispy-edged pork confit — reminiscent of carnitas — served with pillowy pan arabe, and a bowl of esquites in which Indigenous corn is bathed in a Jimmy Nardello pepper-tinged mayo. Order a la carte or opt for the chef’s counter tasting, which offers a tour of the whole menu.
Opened: October 11
Visit: 3159 S Moody Avenue
In the space adjacent to La Fondita, once home to Taqueria Los Ponchos, a new bar will serve complex cocktails with herbs like pipicha, papalo, hoja santa, and yerba buena. The bar is named after a small town in the Mexican state of Colima, famously depicted in the novel Pedro Páramo. Drawing inspiration from the town’s mystique as a place where lost souls live — and its history functioning with an autonomously run government caught between Spanish influence and the fledgling independent Mexico — the República team is setting out to materialize their idea of what a bar in Comala circa 1821 would be. Expect classic drinks with international origins remixed with Mexican components, like a Vieux Carré with mezcal and chocolate bitters. When it comes to food, the bar will offer two snack platters, one reflecting old world Spain and one that brings together the flavors of “new world” Mexico. Reservations will be available through Tock.
Opens: November 2
Visit: 422 NW 8th Avenue
Taking over the La Fondita space in the evenings, De Noche will revive the evening menu that República offered in its early days, focusing on classic Mexican dishes from all over the country. Chef Alfonso “Poncho” Torres has risen through the ranks of República & Co., starting as a line cook at the original restaurant before overseeing La Fondita and his eponymous Taqueria Los Ponchos. De Noche will serve small plates such as sopa de fideo, memelas Veracruzanas, and a daily rotating mole. The entire maiz-centric menu will be available prix fixe for two, giving diners the opportunity to sample nine to 10 dishes.
Opens: November 10
Visit: 422 NW 8th Avenue
Coffee enthusiast and barista Seiji Nanbu will head up the cafe inside Schoolhouse Electric, a space previously home to Prince Coffee. The cafe will be a blending of cultures, drawing from Mexican aesthetics and Japanese hospitality; the menu will also reflect that multicultural approach, covering Mexican coffee drinks, Japanese tea service, and Mexican pastries. Medina’s Reforma Roasters will kick off the proceedings when the cafe opens, but Nanbu expects to add a single origin offering from a rotating cast of roasters.
Visit: 2181 NW Nicolai Street
Originating as the pastry program at República cafes La Perlita and Esperanza, Matutina will evolve into a full bakery on the opposite end of North Park Blocks from La Fondita. Baker Kevin Jones (formerly of Yonder) and Doña Geovani will churn out pastries like confetti-colored conchas, guava empanadas, and panecitos made with Oregon wheat. In the mornings and afternoons, savory porridge, toasts topped with seasonal ingredients, and concha bread pudding will complement a full espresso bar using Reforma Roasters, in addition to non-coffee drinks like champurrado.
Visit: 804 NW Couch Street
Disclosure: Seiji Nanbu is a regular contributor to Eater Portland.
Update: November 2, 2022, 9:53 a.m.: This article was updated with newly adjusted opening dates.
Updated Dec. 1, 2022, at 3:54 p.m.: This story has removed references to Entre Compras, following the death of head brewer Nick Herrera.