The Food Biz: Viva la revolution

Burger Republic builds around beef, shakes and beer

Two restaurant veterans have opened a lively new spot specializing in gourmet burgers, American craft beers and hand-dipped milkshakes. Burger Republic opened two weeks ago in the Lenox Village Town Center development, just off Nolensville Road in southern Davidson County.

Burger Republic’s logo and graphics riff humorously on 20th century revolutionary propaganda posters, with upraised fists and the slogan, “Defend Quality!”

It’s the brainchild of Drew Jackman — a Berklee College of Music grad who worked in bars in Boston, then joined Capital Restaurant Concepts in Washington, D.C., (Georgia Brown’s, Old Glory Bar-B-Que) before embarking on a corporate career at Logan’s Roadhouse and O’Charley’s.

In fact, Jackman’s partner in Burger Republic is Jeff Warne, the former CEO of O’Charley’s who now leads the Perkins chain.

Jackman said that with all due respect to corporate chains, Burger Republic isn’t one. “My heart is 100 percent in independent local restaurants,” he said. “That’s what I did for most of my career in Boston and Washington.”

Burger Republic’s interior “didn’t come in a box,” Jackman said, noting that the bar is a one-of-a-kind piece crafted from an old bowling lane.

“We modeled it after the Pacific Northwest, where my wife and I visited. They have a passion there for beer and burgers, and every place out there is independent,” he said, pausing. “Well, except for Starbucks.”

Most things on the menu are made from scratch, Jackman said. D.J. Pitts, a chef whose credits include time at Aureole in New York, heads the kitchen.

The menu features Certified Angus Beef from the U.S., raised primarily in the Midwest. The burgers are priced mostly in the $8.95-$10.95 range, though there’s a blockbuster Burger Oscar, seasoned with peppercorns and topped with lump crab meat, hollandaise sauce and herb butter for $12.95.

The burger buns are actually fresh brioche baked at local Charpier’s bakery. “The bread’s important,” Jackman said, “since 95 percent of what we serve comes on a bun.”

The second prong in Burger Republic’s strategic plan is the milkshake. The shakes are made with real ice cream — at least five scoops per shake, the menu says — hand-dipped and swirled to order.

Burger Republic is currently licensed to sell only beer, but they hope to add a liquor permit soon and will sell “spiked milkshakes” — for example, the Nutella shake will be offered with a shot of Frangelico liqueur to ramp up the hazelnut flavor.

Beer is the third prong. There are16 beers on tap, all American except for one — Guinness. “I’m Irish Catholic from Boston,” Jackman said. “My entire family would come down here and beat me if I didn’t serve Guinness.”

Featuring breweries like Yazoo, Schlafly, Sweetwater and Rogue, the list of domestics represents mostly craft beers, except for the inexplicably mandatory Bud Light. A larger list of beer in bottles will be added soon.

And what with Lenox Village being a gateway to the suburbs, Jackman wants everyone to know that Burger Republic has an ample 350-slot parking lot — it’s just hard to see from the street.

Burger Republic is at 6900 Lenox Village Drive, suite 22. The phone number is 499-4428.

 

Pork pipeline

Jim ’N Nick’s, the Birmingham, Ala.-based barbecue restaurant company with a popular location on Charlotte Pike in West Nashville, has taken an interesting and unusual step to ensure it gets the kind of pork it wants to purchase, cook and serve.

The company is securing a complete pork supply pipeline. Not only does it recruit and contract with Alabama pig farmers and have its own pork distribution partners, it will soon open its own pork processing plant.

Nick Pihakis, who co-founded Jim ’N Nick’s in 1985 with his late father, Jim, said the facility will open in Eva, Ala., about 40 miles south of Huntsville, later this summer.

Pihakis told me that the plan will benefit his restaurants by giving them access to the pigs they want (the heritage Berkshire and Mangalitsa breeds) and control over how the pork is raised, processed and distributed. The company also plans to generate bacon, ham and other pork products to sell retail and to other restaurants.

But he said what really makes it rewarding is to be creating jobs and helping to revive agriculture in Alabama.

Jim ’N Nick’s, which serves 4 million pounds of pork a year, has lined up five farmers so far, and is working to recruit a total of 40 within five years. He said he will tap farms in Alabama, Mississippi and possibly even southern Tennessee.

Jim ’N Nicks has 29 restaurants, including the one in Nashville, plus Murfreesboro and Smyrna. It will open a location in Cool Springs in September.