The local food movement has come a long way in two years. When we heard, in February of 2008, that there would soon be a restaurant in Belmont serving dishes made from Virginia farm ingredients, we thought it was a novel and brilliant idea. The Local opened a month later, and we were one of the first in line. That first meal was everything we hoped it would be – rustic and fresh, simple but whimsical. Unfortunately, all of the meals we’ve had there since have failed to live up to the promise of that first one, and our last visit was the worst.
Things didn’t start well when the waitress told us that their specials were an Australian Barramundi and oysters from Oregon. She asked if we had any questions, and our friend Shawn said, “I’m trying to figure out why a restaurant called ‘The Local’ would be featuring food from thousands of miles away.” She didn’t have an answer for that – in all fairness, The Local doesn’t claim to be exclusively local – but I was hoping she meant that these otherwise exotic foods had locally farmed relatives.
Regardless of where our food was from, it was all a little disappointing. The chicken with truffle, mushroom, and pea ragout was overwhelmingly brown to look at and dry inside. The Spaghetti Carbonara had excellent fresh pasta from Mona Lisa, but the flavor was flat – a difficult feat for egg, pancetta, parmesan, and coarsely ground peppercorns. The Rag Mountain trout was decent, though also lacking on presentation, and the sesame-crusted tuna was nicely seasoned but too thick to be so raw. A good tuna steak should be rare, but it shouldn’t turn into sashimi after a few bites. The fries that came with the Tuna Steak Frites were delicious, if slightly overcooked.
On the other hand, they have a nice wine list, a cozy neighborhood ambience with outdoor seating in front and on the roof, and, when the kitchen is on top of its game, prices that can’t be beat for the quantity and quality of food you get, much of which is indeed locally derived. I can only hope that the competition from Tavola next door will up the ante and bring The Local back to what it was when it was fresh.
Erin says: “I loved this place when it first opened but have found it inconsistent since. The outdoor patio and cozy brick interior setting is still one of my favorites in town, though, so I hope it fights back!”
Rating: Erin: Jed:
Pros: Reasonable prices, emphasis on local foods, lots of outdoor seating.
Price: Pasta dishes $13-15, entrées $11-20