John Swift will tell you he might not know how to cook, but he knows good food. Swift has been all over the world and has found some great spots. His friends will call him up and tell him what country they are in and he will tell them where to go eat.
Swift, from the Dallas area, officially landed in Beaumont in 2003 with his wife, Suzanne. He’s worked for oil and gas companies, and bought meat and futures contracts for national restaurant chains. Now, he’s a first time restaurateur with Republic Chicken.
Located at 797 N. Fifth St. in the heart of Old Town Beaumont, Republic Chicken is a “family-style home-cooking, downhome good ol’ boy kind of joint.” Think you’ve heard that before? Well how about this: Their chicken fried steak is USDA prime rib. Yes, you read that correctly — fried prime rib. While some steakhouses charge $70 for prime rib, you can enjoy the quality meat for just $13.99. It’s crazy but delicious. Add the cream gravy and you have a little bit of heaven.
Sure, you can get a chicken fried steak at just about every joint around Southeast Texas, but this is different. It’s complete. It’s perfectly breaded and seasoned by Executive Chef Andre Glassey, who met Swift at First Baptist Church in Beaumont. There’s no stringy meat, which makes every bite full of tenderness.
The menu at Republic Chicken offers limited main dishes such as Cuero Catfish, Gulf of Texas Shrimp, Bone in Fried Chicken and Chicken Fried Chicken, all priced within reason, and all come with unlimited sides.
Who does that? From whipped mashed potatoes, green beans (with bacon), classic iceberg salad and southern cream corn, which is the best corn I have ever eaten. Seriously. Legit, off-the-hook corn. I could probably just eat that and be satisfied. On the weekends, you can add macaroni and cheese.
If chicken is in the name of your restaurant, then you better have some good chicken. And I’m here to tell you it delivers.
Swift describes it as “second bite fried chicken.”
“The chicken pops with flavor,” said Swift. “There’s something about the second bite that gives you all the flavor.”
The catfish is another favorite. Breaded lightly — the actual catfish is the star — with Cuero “Gold,” an ancho infused cheese, and you get a game-changer. Don’t tell Swift, but the sauce also goes great with the chicken fried steak.
And don’t forget the Volcano Sauce for the shrimp — amaze.
What goes good with fried food? The Signature Sweet Tea that has a hint of raspberry. Swift and Chef Glassey take a lot of pride not only in their food, but this tea, too. It’s a process, per Glassey.
“We don’t just throw it together,” he said.
The Decadent Desserts are to die for. On the menu is bread pudding (made with homemade biscuits) with Rebecca Creek Bourbon Sauce, chess pie, Aunt Christie’s Chocolate Cake and our favorite, Nina’s Nana Pudding.
“The pudding recipe actually came from one of our server’s grandmothers,” said Swift. I questioned Swift enough to find out that one of the ingredients was cream cheese. The density and sweetness was spot on. Chef Glassey said a customer recently asked for the Nana Pudding without bananas, and it was done without hesitation.
“The most fun part of the business is the customer,” said Swift. “I love to watch human exchange while sitting at our tables. If we can give them great food, something is going to happen at that table that they won’t even see coming. We as people need to stop and slow down. Technology has taken out everything personal. It’s an exchange of soul. There’s not a Wifi password here. Put the cellphone down and enjoy the conversation and food — Texas style.”
Swift loves Texas, especially the history of the Lone Star State, hence the name, Republic Chicken. He started looking for a restaurant location in June 2016 and settled in Old Town Beaumont in August, then opened in September.
“This place screams fried chicken,” said Swift. “I want to be the best. I want everyone in this restaurant to be the best. Not just in Beaumont. We want to be laser-focused on what we do. We have limited options on our menu and try to be the absolute best.”
Something brand new at Republic Chicken is “College Night” on Wednesdays. Students from any college or university can show their college ID and receive $2 off their meals.
They also provide a catering service.
If you don’t already have plans for Valentine’s Day, which is Tuesday, Feb. 14, give them a call at (409) 497-9691 to reserve a table.
Republic Chicken is open Tuesday-Friday from 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., and 5 – 8:30 p.m. Saturdays 11 a.m. – 9 p.m., and Sundays 10:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. Closed on Mondays.