HOUSTON Even though it has only been open a month, The Republic Grille located at 4775 W. Panther Creek Drive at Woodlands Parkway, has become a favorite local spot.

You see a lot of folks you know, so it s kind of a nice warm feel, one diner said.

The owner tells the story of the birth of The Woodlands in pictures on the wall of the private dining room.

Love it. Love all the pictures on the far wall over there. It s wonderful, said diner Cheryll Pagington.

I ve sort of paid my respectsin a way to Mr. Mitchell, said owner Terry McBurney.

He is referring to George Mitchell, the man who built The Woodlands. One picture shows Woodlands Parkway being dug out through the woods. Another display shows plans for the community sketched out on a napkin. A picture near it shows a printed ad announcing newly built homes selling for $39,000.

As for the food, it s all Southern comfort. Bring your appetite and leave the diet at home. The portions are as hefty as they are tasty. Side dishes, like creamed jalapeno corn, are rich and delicious.

The Republic Grille serves quail accompanied by a bacon-barbeque sauce that cannot be matched. The owner said the sauce could make a flip-flop taste good.

The number one appetizer is a deep fried mac and cheese ball. A lot oftrial and error went into creating the recipe.

When you have the different kinds of cheeses and the panko crumbs I originally wanted it to be baked. I wanted something baked. I don t eat a lot of fried foods, Mc Burney said. But I just couldn t get it to work. Finally at the suggestion of one of my chefs, I said, Let s deep fry it.

The result is a tasty pre-dinner treat that is dangerously habit-forming.

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