When you see the names of most of Norwegian Cruise Line’s alternative dining eateries — Cagney’s Steakhouse, Q Texas Smokehouse, Le Bistro, Moderno Churrascaria — it’s pretty easy to figure out what kind of food they serve. But what about Food Republic?
The name alone doesn’t give away too much, which I suspect is part of the reason why it’s been nearly empty every time I’ve eaten there — and that’s a shame because it’s one of my favorite restaurants at sea. Cruisers are truly missing out.
So what, exactly, is Food Republic, and what kind of cuisine does it offer? Here’s everything you need to know about this hidden gem in case you’d like to try it for yourself (and, trust me, you should).
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What is Food Republic on Norwegian cruises?
Food Republic is an added-fee restaurant found on several of NCL’s vessels. Because it’s hardly ever crowded, it’s one of the few dining venues on the line’s ships for which you likely won’t need reservations.
The theme is international street food. Although the menu items hail from various countries — including Mexico, Germany and Peru — options lean heavily Asian, with Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Thai selections available. Plus, there’s a sushi bar.
When you arrive at Food Republic, you’ll be seated in a large dining room filled with a mix of high-top tables and standard ones. The decor is spartan and on the modern side.
Guests can order items from a touchscreen tablet. You don’t need to order your entire meal at once, so consider starting with a couple of items and adding more if you’re still hungry. The dishes take almost no time to prepare, and they show up as they’re ordered and ready, rather than in a traditional starter-main-dessert cadence. (In other words, if you order three plates and dessert all at the same time, you’ll receive them as they’re made, which might mean you get your dessert early in the meal.)
Don’t confuse Food Republic with Indulge Food Hall, a restaurant with a similar concept found on Prima Class vessels. That dining venue is similar to Food Republic in that it’s street food-themed, and you order from a touchpad. The difference is that you seat yourself, and it’s complimentary to dine there.
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Interestingly, Prima Class ships have both venues, which could also explain why Food Republic is almost always empty. Why would passengers pay for something they can get for free elsewhere on board?
NCL Food Republic menu
When it designed the Food Republic menu, NCL split it into five sections, most of which consist of small plates: Sushi Bar, Sharing Is Caring (sharing plates, which are still on the small side), Handhelds (sandwiches and other things you eat without utensils); Noodles, Rice and Soups; and Sugar Pump (desserts).
Items on the sushi menu include a crispy salmon roll, tiger roll, California roll and other choices. Sharing plates feature shishito peppers, Korean fried chicken, calamari, tuna poke nachos and Peruvian beef skewers.
Handhelds encompass Thai chicken lettuce wraps, pork belly bao buns, kanpachi wonton tacos and shrimp, among other selections. Several varieties of noodles, rice and soup — such as shrimp pad Thai, kimchee fried rice and Vietnamese pho tai — are also offered.
Because of the manageable portion sizes, you’ll likely need at least three to four items to feel full, depending on your appetite. The good news is that, with smaller plates, it’s easy to save room for dessert. Choose from a green tea jar with a chocolate brownie and green tea mousse, Black Forest cake and baba with rum.
Although there are two or three selections for cruisers who don’t eat meat, most options are meat- or fish-based. Keep that in mind if you’re vegetarian or vegan.
Alcohol choices specific to the venue are sake by the bottle or glass and a small list of cider and beer. The cocktail menu has just five drinks; I loved the Thai rum and tonic.
Food Republic does not offer a children’s menu, but little ones can order from the ship’s kids menu, available at all onboard restaurants.
Note: Menu items are examples only, and they’re subject to change without notice based on ship and itinerary.
Cost to dine at Food Republic
Norwegian includes Food Republic in its dining packages; if you have one, it will be free for you to eat there. You can choose four dishes per person, including dessert. If you order more than four items, you’ll pay a la carte for the extras, just like anyone who dines there without a package.
It pays to redeem your meals on the most expensive restaurants to get the best value from your dining package. Food Republic is one of them.
A la carte pricing ranges from $15 to $19 per roll for sushi and from $8 to $19 each for sharing plates. Handhelds will set you back between $13 and $16 apiece, and noodles, rice and soup come with a price tag of $16 to $21. Desserts are each priced at $9. If you order three to five plates, you’ll likely pay between $40 and $85 for a meal.
Most drinks cost extra unless you have a qualifying beverage package. A 20% gratuity will be added to all food and drink bills.
Which NCL ships have Food Republic?
Six ships in the Norwegian fleet have Food Republic.
Have cruise questions? TPG has answers: