Restaurant Review: The Local

Posted by Tegan O'Neill

The next time you have a hankering for a nice, unpretentious midday meal, give The Local a try. Nestled in the quaint Beekman Street Arts District, The Local doubles as a pub and teahouse serving up traditional English and Irish fare. The Local does not put on airs. Instead, Bob Marley plays in the background and customers get cozy at their booths and plank tables. When we went, the place was decked out in Halloween knickknacks and, although eating alongside cobwebs was slightly disturbing, I could still appreciate the festive touch.

The establishment's dimensions are suggestive of a boxcar. Throughout the meal, I had the sensation that we might start rumbling along at any moment. Luckily though, with all of the beer mugs hanging above the bar and the teacups on tables, The Local is planted on firm ground. At our table, we shared a pot of honey chai tea poured from a little teapot short and stout.

To begin with, we had the day's soup special: pumpkin - and it truly was a special soup. The savory flavor of pumpkin glowed with the sweet and simple taste of brown sugar. I was tempted to ask for the recipe, but decided I would rather remain in a state of wonder.

It seemed like the right place and time to order a tea sandwich, as we were sitting in a teahouse drinking tea. I was in the mood for a sandwich of goat cheese and almonds. My eyeballs bulged upon seeing the hardly petite tea sandwich placed in front of me. The fluffy snow pile of goat cheese wedged between two slices of bread with the crusts cut off made my dreams come true. To add to my contentment, a dainty roof of almond slivers was crunched above the chèvre cloud.

I was pleasantly surprised by the veggie burger which, in actuality, was not a burger but a slab of grilled eggplant between roasted red peppers and mozzarella. I delighted in biting into the cushiony bakery roll, feeling my teeth cut through the chewy eggplant, slice through the soft mozzarella and sever into the slippery red peppers. Admittedly, that sounds like a tale of treacherous textures, but have no fear. The veggie burger is pudgy and kind like the pillsbury dough boy. The best element of the sandwich's construction is actually not a part of the sandwich but sits on the side in a little thimble of a cup. According to the menu it is balsamic vinaigrette, but I believe this is too modest of a description. More mayonnaise than vinaigrette, it was tasty and I loved dipping and re-dipping the veggie burger for more.

The Local also does breakfast (technically it's brunch) on the weekends. If you are planning on logging trees for the remainder of the day, breakfast there will suit your needs quite well. The hefty breakfast portions are fit for lumberjacks and those pining for heart attacks. Eggs, potatoes and meat dominate the menu. Ordinarily, that would suffice, but what was so bothersome was the poor quality of those breakfast basics. The homefries were clearly not made in house and the grilled tomato was grainy and a very sad shade of pink. When the farmers' market down the street is selling fresh tomatoes it seems like a sin to put what The Local did on a plate. If The Local truly took its name seriously, maybe it would buy its produce locally, too.

Where I had been happy with the soup and sandwiches at lunch, I was thoroughly unimpressed and borderline disgusted with what I ate for breakfast. I can hardly bring myself to recount the ingredient list for the Eye Opener: poutine fries (i.e. french fries drowned in gravy and cheese), two eggs, bacon and sour cream. Never have I seen such a hideous mountain of glop. It looked like a soggy mess and tasted like one, too.

The Irish Breakfast was just your basic eggs, bacon, sausage, homefries and toast with a grilled tomato added to the mix. The mild and mushy sausage was disappointing and neither the eggs nor the bacon stood out. I already griped about the homefries, and I can't help myself from lamenting about the problems with the toast. Packages of Smucker's jam were thrown haphazardly onto the plate on top of the food. Seeing plastic packets lying on meat and eggs really rubbed me the wrong way. At least they could have put the jam packets to the side.

The omelet we ordered was a take on the classic lox, cream cheese and capers except, rather than on a bagel, it was all slipped into an omelet. Despite an excess of capers, which pushed the omelet past acceptable saltiness, I enjoyed it. The refreshing taste of salmon was a much welcome relief amid the mess of the heaviest of breakfasts.

Part teahouse, part pub, The Local's offerings span quite the range. To be satisfied, it all depends on what you are looking for. If a huge, hearty, hulking breakfast is what you're after, then you will not be disappointed. If that type of thing is not your cup of tea, I say skip the breakfast and instead wait until lunch. It is then that creativity peeks through, details are attended to and unique eats appear.

Read More of Tegan O'Neill's outings at her blog


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