Okay, okay -- it took us way too long to hit The Local. There was just so much buzz that we wanted to give the chef time to settle in and hone his menu. Yet we must've waited long enough by the time we arrived last week, since our meal was pretty dang yummy.
If you haven't been, The Local is situated a few doors down from The Bar (yeah, they're real original with their names out there in the Gables). Both places have a great vibe and a strong following, but The Local is a smidge more elevated in our opinion. Granted a glance at the menu's prices would make that pretty obvious: The Local's handcrafted burger made of Meyer all natural beef, cheddar, Benton Farms ham, onion, pickles, barbecue sauce on a brioche is $14, while The Bar's barbecue bacon cheeseburger -- made with a half pound of Angus and featuring lettuce, tomatoes and a pickle is only about $10 (add another buck for onions and it's still lower). More on what we thought of the burger later.
We had to start with the "jerky in a jar" ($7) because, really, who can turn down something that tempting? Made with grass-fed beef, soy, and gochujang, this little treat is a meal in itself so beware trying to down an entire jar alone.
Still not redlining from beef overdose just yet, we ordered the burger, too. Now we've never tried The Bar's version, but we liked The Local's so much that we may never bother. Our beefy bundle arrived so stacked that the top part of the brioche bun was teetering on the top. The mix of cheesy, sweet, and salty covered all the bases, but this was definitely a meal you want to cut in half first, otherwise most of it will end up on your lap. And the fries were -- yes, indeedy -- undeniably homemade.
One of two partial disappointments of the evening arrived in the form on the roasted chicken thighs with dumplings, green olives, preserved lemon, fennel sausage, and herb broth ($16). The portion size was generous and the dish was definitely unique and nourishing, but it was so salty that we could barely finish.
After that we barely had room for the oxtail pasta at $16. But for the sake of our readers, we moved onward. In retrospect, it was a good move since this carb-loaded dish was definitely worthwhile.
By the time dessert came we were definitely ready to throw in the towel but then what human can turn down a plate featuring not only a chocolate-cinnamon pot de crème, but also candied pineapple, lime, toasted marshmallow topping and caramel popcorn ($6)? We were damn glad we didn't give up. This offering won't win any awards, but it was loads of fun and plenty satisfying for the sweet tooth. The signature rice pudding ($6), however, was kind of a dud... until we salvaged it. The menu announced it is accompanied by dulce de leche, paprika merenguito, and lychee. [We later discovered a comma was missing on the menu--the meringues were plain.] Lychee chunks were definitely in there (weird), we couldn't taste the dulce de leche at all, and per the recommendation of our server, we ordered the paprika on the side. After realizing the dish was just freakin' boring, however, a few folks in our party decided to try it with the paprika. Except it wasn't really paprika in the ramekin. It was cayenne. The bad news is, it nearly burnt the hell out of one guy's palate. The good news is, the spice really brought out the flavors of the dish. Score one for the kitchen prankster.
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Would we return? Definitely. But this time we'd try some of the more adventurous items on the menu, like the fried grouper fish cheeks and "chips," Palmetto Farms pork with mint and peanut brittle, shrimp and grits, buffalo-style sweetbreads, and squid ink meatballs. And, of course, we're going to order many, many more craft beers and spend more time with... the locals.