I'm not sure what propelled me to try Lincoln Park's newest sandwich shop but I'm glad I did. I remember reading something in DNAinfo about how the owner here used to work for Naf Naf and he envisions building a sandwich empire in the same way Naf Naf has built a shawarma one. I'm on record as liking Naf Naf as I think it's better than it needs to be. Same goes for Panini Republic.
Newly Opened Sandwich Shop in Lincoln Park / Lakeview
The idea here is to serve sandwiches that not only taste great but also translate to multiple outlets. There's no doubt these guys plan on expanding. The sandwich menu features ten different sandwiches all of which are pressed thus served hot. I've gone through a few of them and aside from the Cuban (no pork) I like all of them. Particularly the tuna melt. A tuna melt is usually something I just make myself as I know the way I like one. It just so happens that PR makes them in a similar fashion to me. This would be a classic tuna blend with melted cheddar and tomatoes that's toasted.
Panini Republic offers multiple options on it's bread choices. While some people on Yelp can't get enough of their pretzel bread I stick to the original option of white. The other sandwich that I really like from here is the 'Bacon Bacon' which is smoked turkey, double bacon, thousand island, pesto, tomato, red onion, and cheddar. Aside from what seems to be decent enough ingredients, they slice the meat daily for whatever that's worth, the key to these sandwiches is the panini press. When they get the perfect amount of time the bread gets a crispy coating and the melted cheese molds everything else together. In my opinion the success of this place as a franchise will partly depend on whether or not they can train employees to cook each sandwich long enough and to not feel rushed. While they have three machines there was one visit where there was a line and the sandwich I received wasn't fully cooked in the way it was the previous visit. Nonetheless I think this place has potential to be the states next big successful sandwich chain. We'll see how the menu translates should that happen.
The 'Bacon Bacon'
The Panini Republic
500 W Diversey Pkwy
Chicago, IL 60614