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Restaurant Reviews
The Woodlands Texas Restaurant Chew and Reviews

Republic Grille – The Woodlands

The Republic Grille opened for business in late Spring 2014 in the far west end of the Panther Creek Shopping Center in The Woodlands, Texas. The space was previously held for more than 30 years by an Asian eatery, Ace Chinese Restaurant, who has plans to relocate to a new location just outside of The Woodlands.

The Woodlands Texas turns 40 in 2014 having first raised a flag on Saturday, October 19, 1974. Since then, we have seen a number of restaurants come and go, and The Republic Grille pays homage to The Woodlands with their interesting collection of historical photographs.

Historical photos of The Woodlands

The Interior

As we mentioned earlier, The Republic Grille recently opened (May 12, 2014) after including the finishing touches on the complete rebuild of the retail space at Panther Creek Shopping Center. The new eatery features an upscale interior with stone accents, combined with some comfortable outdoor seating for casual dining and/or drinks.

Dining room of The Republic Grille

The Menu

The dinner menu comes in at just under 40 items before you count the sides and desserts, adequately covering the basics. Overall pricing is about average of what you might expect to pay at other full service restaurants of similar caliber, while the ambiance and service at Republic Grille exceeds those same establishments. Adult entrées start at a modest $9 for an Angus burger, and top out at a mere $19 for shrimp or flounder.

Spinach & Artichoke Dip

We began with the Spinach & Artichoke Dip, $7. The blend of spinach, artichokes, a house blend of spices, Parmesan cheese, and sliced, toasted baguettes arrived piping hot, in short order. The diced tomato sitting on top adds a nice contrast in color, and compliments the fresh, whole leaf spinach.

Artichoke Spinach Dip at Republic Grille

Artichoke Spinach Dip

The sliced baguette was presented bathed in olive oil; in fact, ours was a bit saturated. At least there is a good trade-off of overall health benefits of extra virgin olive oil versus butter. It also would have been nice to have had two or four more slices of the bread, as we found ourselves finishing the dip with our forks.

Large leaf spinach could have been cut into smaller portions

Whole Leaf Spinach & Artichoke Dip

Our serving of the popular appetizer had a generous amount of spinach, and had it been diced a bit finer, it would likely have been easier to manage. The ‘rich and creamy’ part of the dish was lacking slightly on the creamy side, winding up with our giving an overall score of eight out of ten.

She Said

Before I talk about the sandwich, can I just point out – and commend – Republic Grille for not having an up-charge for the sweet potato fries? Thank you! Seriously, sweet potatoes can’t possible cost a restaurant twice as much as potatoes. Add to that, the sweet potato fries here were done just right; not too mushy, not fried to a crisp. Seasoned just right for me, with no need of a dipping sauce. Now – the grilled turkey club ($9) sandwich, for me, had it’s pluses and minuses. On the plus side, the bun option I went with when offered between white, wheat, and jalapeño cheddar, was the latter; and it was absolutely baked-that-day fresh, soft, and delicious. There was a generous amount of turkey and peppered bacon, and the lettuce and tomato were also very fresh. On the minus side, though, were a couple of thoughts. First of all, the turkey is clearly a deli-style, rolled turkey breast, not a roasted, carved bird. This, to me, makes grilling the meat rather – well, silly, really. It also seemed to make it kind of slimy. Or maybe that was the abundance of bacon grease. Or grease from the melting cheddar. Or possibly the melting chipotle mayo. My point is this – the sandwich is served good and hot, which caused for a lot of melting of ingredients to happen. This in turn left me with puddles in my hands, a very wet napkin, and, for the first half of my sandwich, anyway, a rather saturated bun. But because it is a very generous sandwich, I saved the second half for lunch the next day, and had more than enough to split between the two of us when I divvied up the fixings between new bread at home. All in all – I’d give it a seven out of 10, if I was scoring.

Grilled Turkey Club Sandwich

Grilled Turkey Club Sandwich

He Said

The Southern-style Chicken Fried Steak ($12) is hand-battered and served with cream gravy. This was one of only four Chicken Fried Steaks that I have sampled in the past 15 months or so, but I have eaten so many more over the years, that’s like riding a bike. A lot of us can relate to the idea of ‘that one place’ that had the best Chicken Fried Steak, ever. Well, Republic Grille isn’t exactly that place for me, however, it may very well be the best in The Woodlands. The breading wasn’t three times larger than the steak like it is at some other places and the meat wasn’t beat down to paper thin levels. When it comes to chewy versus tender, my steak was comfortably in the middle of these two barometers. I wasn’t able to cut it with a fork, but had no problem with the help of my butter knife (the plate does not ship with a steak knife). We all know that cream of mushroom soup is great starter for making gravy, but you can also use good old fashioned milk, flour, black pepper (of course), and a splash of seasoned salt. The cream gravy at Republic Grille tastes suspiciously like cream of mushroom soup and little else aside from the course ground black pepper, which you can easily see. Definitely something about the Chicken Fried Steak, and Chicken Fried Chicken, that mushroom fans can appreciate. The contrast in the flavor between the gravy and steak is a good one, but it leans a bit too far in favor of the mushroom for me.  A majority of my steak was a two on a five-point chewy scale (5 = lower jaw pain), while literally only one bite rated a zero on the chewy scale. This is far from a complaint of any kind – in fact, it’s a very good score.

Chicken Fried Steak at The Republic Grille

Southern-style Chicken Fried Steak

The Sides

The mashed potatoes scored nine out of 10 for great texture and flavor. Minus one due to a lack of black pepper, and the best I’ve had in The Woodlands. I like more pepper in my green beans as well, but I also prefer them to not be cooked to the extent that mine were. My grandfather once told me that “when you are cooking string beans, and they break apart, well, at that point you have cooked out all of the vitamins.” Seemed credible to me when I was five and learning to make fried bologna sandwiches. How many kids do you know that refuse to eat anything green?

Over cooked green beans

Green Beans with Bacon Republic Grille – The Woodlands

The green beans at Republic Grille appear to be slow cooked and maybe even over-cooked, as they had the consistency of what you might call green bean stew; just mushy. Not that it really affected the flavor of the beans, the peppered bacon. Tasting food is more than just noticing the flavor; color and texture also play important roles.

The Bottom Line

The Republic Grille at Panther Creek brings a much-needed breath of fresh style and good food to The Woodlands. All things considered, it’s a great value for your dining dollars. The sleek interior is calm, modern, and comfortable, and the staff is friendly and attentive. We would like to suggest that management consider relocating the hostess stand a little further away from the front door – it’s close proximity to the entrance creates some congestion when either entering or exiting the establishment. Both times when we passed through the doorway, there were other guests lined up at the podium, which incidentally, places them directly in front of and blocking the doors. When we first arrived, an initial thought I had upon seeing people against the door was that there would be a wait. Fortunately for us, this was not the case.

Location information for the Republic Grille
: Goodson’s Cafe Outback Steakhouse

The Republic Grille

Bonefish Grill – The Woodlands

Bonefish Grill has been open in The Woodlands for a while now, but we sometimes give new eateries time to work out the new-place kinks, so we thought it was about time to head over and check them out. The classy interior and the chef-jacket clad servers gave us an overall feeling of being high class, and with high class interiors, you typically expect high class pricing. However, this was not the case at Bonefish, as the pricing seemed to be about average on the (limited item) menu. Chef Ramsey would likely approve of the easy list of choices and perhaps even the decor, although we haven’t seen him re-do any interior space to this degree. The hostess was pleasant and courteous, seating us quickly, but as it was quite chilly inside, we moved to a patio table.

Our friendly, fast-talking server – who hails from Minnesota – hasn’t quite adopted any southern style in his speech yet, so we had to ask him to repeat one or two things as the words flew from his Minnesota mouth.

Overall, Terry was prompt, attentive, and friendly, which are always good things. But one interesting point he made as we perused the menu during our initial conversation, caused me a little concern in relation to how fresh the fish is at Bonefish. When I inquired about the Chilean Sea Bass, he responded with “It’s checked every day and…” I had to stop him there. “What do you mean by ‘checked every day’? Isn’t seafood delivered fresh every day?" I asked. “Yes,” he replied, "the seafood is delivered and checked every day." It may seem like a minor clarification, but the importance of this detail will become more apparent later.

Bonefish Grill The Woodlands Baked Bread

Baked Bread with Pesto Olive Oil

The bread was warm and fresh, with a texture similar to Ciabatta. Unfortunately, it did not arrive until T-minus two minutes prior to our dinner plates. This was the first of several timing oddities we observed while we dined – though we all received bread at the same time, our dining neighbors actually got theirs a good ten minutes or more before their main entrees; while yet another neighbor table never received bread at all. An obvious explanation would be that was at that moment when fresh bread had become available from the kitchen, although it did not appear to be oven-fresh. Less obvious was why the kitchen apparently wouldn’t have bread more readily available during typical dinner hour(s).

The Menu

With the dinner menu having only five categories and 25 items (33 if you count each of the types of grilled fish separately) save for sides and desserts, the menu seems a bit underwhelming. But a small menu keeps expenses low, and can make life in the kitchen a little easier for all. But then, it helps if your kitchen staff knows what they are doing. Based on the rest of our meals, we aren’t so sure that this kitchen staff does.

She Said

Full disclosure: I love me a good crab cake. And one of the options on the menu is a Maryland crab cake dinner that has two crab cakes. But for just a few more dollars, an option that allows for a bit more variety on your plate is the Sirloin + Crab Cake dinner (6 oz "center cut" sirloin + Maryland style crab cake $19.90), then upgrade to filet mignon (add $6). Either way, the crab cake comes with red remoulade, and all entrées (except pasta), are served with a fresh seasonal vegetable (we had the current selectin of zucchini in tomato sauce), plus your choice of one side item – I went with the garlic whipped potatoes. Because garlic.

Imagine if you will, the Filet Mignon. How thick is it? Inch and a half? Somewhere between two and three inches? Me, too! I think of a beautiful, thick cut of beef like this one. Come to think of it, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a filet mignon less than an inch thick. Have you? Good, so I’m not the only one then. So you can imagine my surprise when my meal was delivered with what appeared to be a rounded-off strip steak, no more than 3/4" thick. Adding to my surprise was our server stating that he was certain this was in fact, a filet mignon, because, "all the filets are that thin. I know, it surprises me, too," he said, confidently. Adding that sometimes they are a little thicker. I was 99.95% sure it was actually the sirloin. After cutting into the steak and finding it to be bordering on well done (I’d ordered medium rare, as one does with a filet) the plate was returned to the kitchen for replacement.

Steak and Crabcake

Sirloin + Crab Cake dinner at Bonefish Grill – The Woodlands

And then a curious thing happened. A nicely dressed young woman appeared (who never introduced herself, incidentally), and was very apologetic as she delivered my replacement filet – ta-da! The kitchen sent out a lovely, nearly two inch thick, beautiful filet. Beautiful, that is, until I cut into it. Because as you can see below, it nearly uttered a final "moo" it was so rare. I could tell by the look on her face, and the way she asked me – no less than three times – if I was sure it was alright, she thought it was too rare. And to be honest, the center was a little under done. But while all this was going on with my meal, his meal was having it’s own set of Snafus occurring, so I wasn’t going to send this one back, only to have it come back, possibly re-grilled and now over-done. It’s really disappointing when the two of you have to take turns watching each other eat while one or both of you await replacement plate(s) rather than enjoying a nice meal, together.

Filet Mignon and Crabcake at Bonefish Grill

As for the crab cake, it was pretty good, though a bit on the small side – closer to an appetizer portion than a main dish. The crab tasted fresh, not canned, and definitely not fishy. The breadcrumbs were soft in the center with a toast-like crispy exterior, a pleasant effect of having been baked, as opposed to being fried. Personally, I prefer a baked crab cake, not only is it (usually) healthier, but you get a better flavor and texture from the crab. I think if anyone were considering the crab cake dinner as a meal, though it comes with two, may find themselves still hungry after having finished the entree. But, this could also be construed as having room for dessert. Also of note was the extreme saltiness of, well, everything, really. A good crab cake recipe shouldn’t need any salt at all, as a nice blend of seasonings should definitely provide plenty of flavor. The same goes for the garlic whipped potatoes, and the zucchini in tomato sauce. But everything on my plate was extremely salty. To me, this shows a lack of either imagination or knowledge in the kitchen, relying too heavily on salt to add flavor to everything. Of course, based on our experience, I’m leaning more toward a lack of knowledge in the kitchen. One final observation: I know Bonefish is quite proud of their wood-burning grill, but any chef worth his toque will tell you the grill is no place for a filet mignon – a cut of beef that should be pan-seared and finished in the oven, or sautéed.

Steak and Crabcake

Crab Cake and Steak

He Said

I ordered the Wood-Fired, Grilled Chilean Sea Bass a.k.a., the Patagonian toothfish* with a Steamed Vegetable Medley as the side ($27.30). The steamed vegetables tasted fresh and flavorful, and the zesty tomato sauce worked very well with the zucchini. The mango salsa was about average in taste and the fish… the fish wasn’t at all what I expected.

* The name "Chilean Seabass" was invented by fish wholesaler, Lee Lantz in 1977. Lantz wanted a name that would make it attractive to the American market. Considering "Pacific sea bass" and "South American sea bass", he settled on "Chilean Sea bass." In 1994, the FDA accepted "Chilean Sea bass" as an "alternative market name" for Patagonian toothfish, and in 2013 for Antarctic toothfish.

Lobster Tail @ Bonefish Grill
Grilled Chilean Sea Bass with Mango Salsa

My serving of Chilean Sea Bass was (although reportedly safe to eat) woefully under-cooked, arriving in a gelatinous, or oddly squishy state, similar to past unpleasant experiences I’ve had with scallops. When asked, our server said it was supposed to be like that, and tried to explain that it was ‘buttery’ along with some additional adjectives that only served to illustrate his lack of knowledge of the sea bass. He departed and subsequently, the same, well-dressed woman arrived to investigate further and possibly explain how the fish was indeed cooked properly; adding that she found that people either ‘like it’ or ‘don’t like it’ going along with the premise that the fish was cooked properly. Sea bass, Chilean or otherwise when cooked, is an oil-rich fish that doesn’t taste oily, and is noted for its large, thick flake and melt-in-your-mouth texture. She was happy and quick to offer me a replacement, suggesting the lobster tails and I agreed.

Lobster Tail @ Bonefish Grill
Under Cooked Sea Bass

The two lobster tails and steamed vegetables ($13.90) arrived promptly delivered by our well-dressed, smiling young woman, who made some small talk and then quickly disappeared. And here is where that previous quality check/fresh delivered concern from earlier comes into play. I don’t recall seeing anything stating how fresh the lobster is or was supposed to be. Live lobster will respond to being cooked by curling it’s tail and as you can see, these tails are quite flat. For those who don’t know, lobsters are a decapod crustacean that live in saltwater. Like most crustaceans, they must be cooked shortly after they die as their meat rots quickly. As you can see, the meat was primarily white but did have some black spots (looks like black pepper) [see larger photos] both of these indicators lead me to believe that the tails I was served were not entirely fresh. When cooked properly, the meat should be white, opaque and firm to the touch. Mine was a dull white, quite firm to the touch, and easier to cut with a butter knife than a fork. The meat was not flaky or juicy, so simply stated, it was not properly prepared. The second tail was very salty, and when asked, our friendly young woman stated that Bonefish does not add salt to their foods and that it might have been because it lived in the ocean. Really?

Lobster Tail @ Bonefish Grill
Cold Water Lobster Tails with Steamed Vegetables

The Desserts

After all of the back and forth with our meals, coupled with neither of us actually finishing them, we had plenty of room to take the manager up on her suggestion that we have dessert. For variety (and posterity!) we ordered the Key lime pie, and the Macadamia nut brownie. The Key lime pie could easily be re-named the Pucker lime pie, as that is what we did after taking a bite. Whether or not the limes were truly Keys or a standard variety, there was plenty of that tangy and tart lime flavor going on in that pie. It didn’t hurt it either being nestled between a hand-pressed, roasted pecan and graham crust and a generous dollop of house-made whipped cream ($6.50).

Key Lime Pie

Key Lime Pie at Bonefish Grill – The Woodlands

The macadamia nut brownie is a flour-less brownie, served warm atop a raspberry sauce, along with vanilla ice cream, and sprinkled with macadamia nuts ($6.50). Though it looks very thick and rich in the photo, it was surprisingly light in consistency, and not overwhelmingly sweet. We found both desserts to be a pleasant finish to an otherwise disappointing meal.

Chocolate Brownie

The Bottom Line

We’ve said it before, and it’s still holds true today – It’s a shame when the side items outshine the main entree(s). For all the mistakes and mishaps that happened during our visit to Bonefish Grill, we will say this: Every member of staff that we interacted with was very polite, smiling, and pleasant. Though we would have liked to have seen all of them possess a bit more knowledge of the foods they were serving, they can’t be faulted for the mistakes happening behind the pass. Also to their credit, the faulty plates were removed, leaving us with a minimal bill – an unspoken apology that was neither asked for nor pointed out. Due to those facts, then, we have decided to not write off Bonefish Grill altogether, and plan on returning to give them at least one more try… It just might be some time before we do, while we wait for some further training or possible turnover to happen at Bonefish Grill, The Woodlands.


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Bonefish Grill on Urbanspoon

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