You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.


  • ePAPER

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks


Welcome to

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on

Republic of Sandwich takes an unrestrained approach to sandwich making

Walk into the tiny Republic of Sandwich deli and you won’t encounter the processed meats and cookie-cutter bins of shredded lettuce and pre-chopped veggies that you find at ubiquitous chain sandwich shops. Instead you’ll catch scented wafts of savory meats roasted in house and glimpses of Brussels sprouts being removed from the oven.

I haven’t asked partners Thomas Gardner and Pete O’Donnell about the name of their Rosedale deli, located catty-corner to Epicerie and Fonda San Miguel, but to me the moniker represents liberation and the desire to break the constraints of low expectations most have of generic sandwich shops.

The partners have a respect for quality ingredients, owing to their time as cooks over the better part of the past decade. After meeting while working at a resort in Vail, Colo., the two moved to Austin, with the Culinary Institute of America graduate O’Donnell serving stints at Searsucker and St. Philip and Gardner in the prepared foods department at Whole Foods in the Domain.

They opened Republic of Sandwich in October, serving breakfast and lunch to a neighborhood apparently hungry for new options, judging by the steady crowds and repeat customers. The roster of about 10 sandwiches, served throughout the day, packs enough meat to carry you over into dinner.

Strands of tender roasted pork tumbled from puffed Amaroso rolls (the softest things to ever come out of the City of Brotherly Love) on the the Earl ($9), a sandwich that also included brawny layers of smoked ham, pickle spears, Swiss cheese and an overwhelming amount of mustard. That same pork, which derived flavor mostly from its fatty edges, spilled from the (215), a sandwich that exhibited the chefs’ culinary creativity with fibrous lollipops of broccoli rabe and slippery peppers ($9).

Independence brings with it responsibility, and the freedom the chefs find in breaking from the homogeny of standard sandwich constructs can lead to an unruly product. Both pork sandwiches needed more restraint and a better balance of flavors, as was the case with a cold roast beef sandwich piqued with horseradish cream and peppernade. The beef lacked flavor and was piled to an unmanageable mess.

Republic of Sandwich’s take on the Reuben found better harmony, with smoke-dazed pastrami, Swiss cheese, Russian dressing and sauerkraut blending into the perfect marriage of savory, tangy, crunchy and funky. More funk was called for on the kimchi Brussels sprouts that swam in copious amounts of a sweet and sticky sauce ($2).

The unbridled ethos of the creative Republic of Sandwich wakes up early and ready to rock. The shop serves breakfast daily, and the breakfast tacos boast as much filling per square inch as the sandwiches. Because of the claustrophobic kitchen, in which they do considerable work, the guys don’t have room to make their own bagels or tortillas. But it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

Republic takes airy and pliant tortillas and fills them with some unexpected ingredients like broccoli rabe and homemade pesto, but don’t worry — they don’t forsake the eggs. I’ve never seen such a chaotic cascade of eggs in a breakfast taco. Wet and fluffy, the twisting and steaming piles served as bed and buttress for the load of toppings. With the crunch of chopped potato hash and peppered pop of pastrami, the Steve ($3) resembled a dish of steak-and-eggs encapsulated in a handheld delivery system. The eponymous Republic taco ($3) gave a sneak peak of lunchtime’s roasted pork and kimchi, bound by the gooey grasp of melted cheddar. The only major miss on the tacos was the El Guapo ($3), its turkey chorizo delivering a fiery kick that numbed my tastebuds.

Now it’s time to put on the hypocrite hat. While I think the sandwiches and some of the tacos at Republic of Sandwich require editing, my favorite thing at the neighborhood deli is unapologetically unrestrained. Served on a toasted everything bagel from locals Rockstar Bagels, the Sacrilicious ($8) puts an unholy spin on the classic lox and bagel. Republic smokes their brown-sugar-cured salmon, layers the fish in satiny waves and tops it with crispy bacon, spicy peppers, bossy red onions and Swiss cheese for an oily, smoky, sweet, crunchy and creamy breakfast sandwich.

The unruly sandwich speaks to the double-edged blessing and curse of passionate creation — sometimes it can lead to a sloppy but well-intentioned love note, and other times the results can be sublime.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Austin360 Eats

You think you don't like beets? Try 'em this way.
You think you don't like beets? Try 'em this way.

This salad, best described as a "small plate" using the current culinary lingo, offers a refreshing bright spot this time of year when we have had our fill of roasted roots and stews and are ready to move on to something sunnier. Sure, the dish is anchored by the deep earthiness of roasted beets, but they are given a different outlook, layered...
Celebrate the Afrobeat legacy of Fela Kuti at Long Center concert
Celebrate the Afrobeat legacy of Fela Kuti at Long Center concert

1. “Fela! The Concert” 8 p.m. March 26. $25-$50. The Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive. 512-474-5664, This multimedia extravaganza of rhythm, beat and culture celebrates the Afrobeat legacy of Fela Kuti. “Fela! the Concert” features electrifying rhythms from a live 10-piece Afrobeat band, as well as nine...
Austin Dance Festival inspires artistic sense of community
Austin Dance Festival inspires artistic sense of community

When Kathy Dunn Hamrick founded the Austin Dance Festival three years ago, her mission was simple: “I wanted to showcase as many artists as we could in a community atmosphere, not a stale, cold one.” The artistic director of modern dance troupe Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company since 1999, Hamrick and the dancers she’s mentored have...
Music and a ‘Beautiful’ musical among arts events this week
Music and a ‘Beautiful’ musical among arts events this week

Music “Notre Dame Cathedral, c. 1200.” The Texas Early Music Project explores the groundbreaking music of Léonin and Pérotin of the 12th century School of Notre-Dame, whose musical innovations are the foundation for almost all the music we enjoy today in the Western world. 8 p.m. March 25, St. Mary’s Cathedral, 203 E...
Recipe of the Week: Morimoto’s recipe for perfect white rice
Recipe of the Week: Morimoto’s recipe for perfect white rice

If you aren’t already rinsing rice before you cook it, it’s not too late to start. Famed chef Masaharu Morimoto includes his recipe for perfect white rice in his new book, “Mastering the Art of Japanese Home Cooking” (Ecco, $45), as well as an easy nori-wrapped rice ball that will ease your craving for sushi without actually...
More Stories