The Local

Where beer is a major food group

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

As soon as photos from the Local Public House started showing up in my Facebook feed, I knew I would be visiting soon.

Created by Menace Brewing owners Ben Buccarelli, Tom Raden, and Brandon Peterson, it sounded like everything I want in a pub. Beer-food pairings? Duck gumbo? House-made kimchi? They opened their doors on Railroad Avenue in mid-October and we promptly went to try it out.

The space is airy but warm, thanks to plenty of natural wood, but all the surfaces are hard and the walls are currently bare, which makes for a loud room. There is seating at the long bar and at tables around the edge of the room, with standing tables down the middle that would be awkward for eating but perfect for hanging out over a pint with friends.

The menu is divided into “Liquids” and “Solids,” a clear demonstration of the Local’s devotion to beer as a major food group. This is not a place to go if you always order the same beer, since their list changes constantly as one keg blows and is replaced by a completely different one.

They feature beers from all the local breweries, including Menace (of course), Chuckanut, Boundary Bay, North Fork, Island Hoppin’ and others. The food menu—created by co-owner Peterson, who previously was chef at the Fork at Agate Bay—includes beer pairing suggestions for each dish, and the plan is that, as the beer list changes, the food will also change.

On my first lunchtime visit I asked the bartender whether I should go for the Reuben or the banh mi. He looked thoughtful, asked how hungry I was, then settled on the Reuben ($11). He did not steer me wrong. It was one of the best Reubens of my life: the marbled rye was cut thin and toasted, the corned beef (made from a top round, not a brisket) was falling-apart tender and succulent, and there was plenty of cheese and sauerkraut. The fries were soft but flavorful—at first I thought I could skip them, but suddenly found myself finishing them off with the accompanying remoulade. My companion polished off a bowl of the roasted duck and andouille gumbo ($10).

On a later visit, with a couple of extra tasters in our party, we sampled the dinner menu. I had the blackened shrimp with fried okra and andouille sausage ($10), while a friend had the venison bangers with parsnip mash and kale chips ($12). He didn’t much care for the venison sausage by itself, but the combination was effective.

Another friend ordered the curried fish and chips ($10), which she had also tried the previous week. She said the amount of curry in the batter varied, as did the quantity of fish in the order, but it was firm, fresh and not greasy. Chimichurri lamb frites ($13) was perfectly cooked and interestingly paired with a light herb salad, although we were puzzled as to why the chimichurri sauce was underneath the fries rather than on the lamb.

All of it was well conceived, well executed and very good with beer. My only quibble is that the size of the portions is erratic. The fish and chips make a meal, but the shrimp and okra was more of a beer snack, as was the lamb frites. We found that we needed to add an order of wings with gochujang and kimchi ($7) to stave off hunger—not exactly a terrible hardship.

Small portions are not, however, the case at brunch, the latest addition to the Local’s repertoire.

We were informed that the chicken and waffles with green chile gravy ($12) are a transporting experience, but we got distracted by the chilaquiles ($8) and the corned beef hash ($10). The chilaquiles were both plentiful and excellent, with perfectly fried eggs perched on top of black beans on top of tomato- and pepper-soaked tortilla chips, and they went spectacularly with a chile-infused pale ale from Menace Brewing. Now that’s what I call brunch.

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