The following story is the first in a series on how Monroe’s restaurants are weathering the coronavirus pandemic.
262 Main St.
Hours: Monday to Friday 4 to 8 p.m. for dinner. Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 8 p.m.
A Helpful Tip: “Pay over the phone, and indicate what tip amount you’d like to leave for the members of the staff that are still active and helping us,” co-owner Lundrim Dauti said. “This way there’s no need to sign any receipt slips.”
MONROE, CT — Republic Kitchen is doing the cooking for hungry residents social distancing at home during the coronavirus pandemic, and family meals recently added to its menu offer southern fried chicken breast, grilled steak tips, pasta and chicken dishes, and burgers made with angus beef.
“We’ve kept our full menu,” said Lundrim Dauti, who owns the restaurant with his brother, Istref. “We’re picking up fresh produce every day.”
Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, Dauti said 95 percent of Republic Kitchen’s business was dine-in. With residents barred from eating inside restaurants, the global pandemic forced the business to adjust.
Republic Kitchen uses Vroom and Door Dash for home deliveries and the restaurant setup a system for takeout with the health of their patrons and employees in mind.
“We offer curbside only. You drive up and we bring it out to you,” he said Thursday. “We have hand sanitizer. We’re always wearing gloves and we’re trying to make it as zero contact as possible.”
In addition to family meals, Republic Kitchen is offering a Corona 25 promotion, giving gift cards to customers who mention the promotion while ordering over the phone. Once social distancing orders are lifted, the cards can be redeemed for a 25 percent discount.
Dauti and his brother have owned and operated Republic Kitchen since April of 2019.
“We’ve done a lot to create a family friendly, cohesive structure, where everyone feels welcome,” Dauti said, adding of the food, “it’s definitely American comfort food with a focus of making it one step above. We try to incorporate different flavors.”
Dauti said Republic Kitchen is involved in the community, having donated to local groups and sponsoring Little League and youth hockey teams. “People appreciate what we do,” he said.
Now the Dautis and other restauranteurs in town are hoping townspeople will help their businesses through these tough times.
“It’s hard to ask people to put their fear of the coronavirus aside and support their small businesses, but now is when we need them most,” Dauti said.
“We’ve been doing our best to try to keep our staff working, but it’s become increasingly more difficult,” he said. “Many of our waitstaff understand. There are limits to how many people you can have in the building too. They’re going to wait this out and come back.”
From speaking to his patrons, Dauti said everyone is generally concerned over the uncertainty of the situation.
The sole focus on being a takeout business may prove beneficial to Republic Kitchen in the long run, but Dauti said it doesn’t compare to what the restaurant is used to.
“Ninety percent of the people getting takeout tell us they can’t wait until we reopen for dine-in,” he said. “Our staff is great. The food is great. The atmosphere is good. They like coming here and they don’t get that experience now that it’s solely takeout.”
Dauti said he also misses seeing customers in the restaurant’s dining room and bar every night.
“It’s like a big family,” he said. “Between my brother and I, we’ve become close to our customers. Even though we’re not from Monroe, we’ve become close to the community.”
For now, the brothers are taking advantage of their empty building, doing painting and remodeling to make the restaurant more comfortable for their customers.
“We’re committed to getting through this,” Dauti said. “Our focus is to be here when this is over and, not only to be here, but to be better than before.”