Behind the Menu: Powerhouse lineup of barbecue a marquee attraction at Bristol Republic

Gary Seman Jr.
The Columbus Dispatch
Barbecued spare ribs at Bristol Republic

Instead of trying the protracted method of trial-and-error when creating his own barbecue, Brian Swanson turned to someone who already knew how to do it.

Swanson partnered with pitmaster Max McGarity of Smoked on High to launch Bristol Republic — a restaurant and live-music venue — three years ago in the Short North.

McGarity supplied the recipes, in-house smoking technique, trained the staff and oversees the operation.

“Barbecue is a true art form,” Swanson said. “It’s very hard to learn your own technical processes.”

The meats, all raised on Ohio farms, start with a simple rub of salt, pepper, brown sugar and other highly guarded seasonings.

“It’s all I can give out,” said Swanson, who also owns Bodega in the Short North and the soon-to-open Worthington Tavern in the northern suburb.

Brisket at Bristol Republic

The next part is the smoking, done in-house with mesquite and oak.

“It’s just going to get you that big smoky flavor,” he said. “Harder woods smoke a little longer.”

The signature choice is brisket ($11 a half-pound or $6 for a quarter-pound sample) smoked for 18 hours.

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“It’s really in a league of its own,” Swanson said. “The bark that our rub creates is just so savory, it’s so good. It’s definitely a top-seller.”

All orders are served with house pickles and coleslaw.

Swanson once again turned locally for his hot sausage links ($7). He gets his proprietary seasonings from North Market Spices, which Butcher & Grocer uses to create the product specifically for Bristol Republic.

“It’s got a kick to it but it’s not overwhelming, just the right amount of heat,” he said.

The restaurant uses the larger spare ribs ($9 for a quarter, $18 for a half and $29 for a full) which are cooked competition-style, meaning there’s tension on the meat and it doesn’t fall off of the bone.

“They’re definitely bigger, definitely meatier,” Swanson said.

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The remaining meat choices are pulled pork ($11 or $6 for a sample) and chicken wings ($13), which are flash-fried on ordering and served plain, with a dry rub or tossed in one of the six signature sauces.

Three were developed in the kitchen at Smoked on High: “gator” (Carolina-style mustard-and-vinegar), “pucker” (sweet-and-spicy) and Kansas City-style sweet whiskey sauce.

Bristol created three of its own: Alabama white sauce (mayonnaise-and-vinegar), sweet-and-tangy “Bristol Bourbon BBQ” made with Watershed bourbon and house-made Buffalo.

Chicken and waffles at Bristol Republic

When choosing an option, “I think it really depends on your personal style,” he said. “Everybody’s different. There’s no right or wrong answer.”

Pulled pork and brisket sandwiches ($12 and $15 respectively) also are available, as is barbecue jackfruit ($12).

“I like it,” Swanson said, noting the consistency is somewhat like pulled pork. “Some of my family members are vegetarian, too. If you’re a vegetarian and you come in for barbecue you don’t feel left out.”

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Bristol has all the classic barbecue sides, including baked beans ($4), slow-cooked with brisket, and potato salad tossed with mayonnaise and mustard and light seasoning of salt and pepper.

Baked mac and cheese, which starts at $10, uses aged cheddar, smoked Gouda and Swiss for a creamy consistency. It’s tossed in the oven so the cheese bubbles and hardens to create a tantalizing texture.

Meats can be added for a nominal price. Swanson suggests the buffalo chicken ($13), which has crispy chicken, tangy sauce and blue cheese dressing.

Brunch is offered from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Swanson said he has two favorites: crispy chicken and waffles ($14) served with maple syrup and the breakfast burrito meat: scrambled eggs, potatoes, guacamole, pico de gallo, chipotle aioli cheddar. Customers get a choice of meat; Swanson naturally chooses brisket.

“I’m always about brisket,” he said. “That savory and kind of fatty meat with that nice bark in a burrito is pretty good.”


Bristol Republic

Location: 1124 N. High St.

Kitchen hours: 4 to 10 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, and closed Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays

Contact: 614-929-5847, https://www.bristolrepublic.com/#home-section