Munch goes to Local Bar & Kitchen
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That was the adjective of choice Munch's suffer-no-fools uncle applied to anyone he thought wasn't throwing straight dice. And slick is the adjective that came to mind after eating at Local Bar & Kitchen on the South Side.
With a name like Local, two connotations come immediately to mind -- that it's dedicated to local foods and delicacies, perhaps embracing the locavore, farm-to-table concept. Or that it embodies the colloquial British vernacular of local, as in a neighborhood pub with local brews. Or, maybe both?
Not so much of either, really.
But Local does do a lot right. The design is commendable, and it's a really cool space. By gutting the interior and rehabbing the facade of a shabby corner building at 16th and Carson streets, Local is easily among the most attractive looking bars or restaurants on the South Side. Gears and springs hang on the walls, an obvious homage to the industrial toil once done nearby. Huge street-level windows open out to allow the fresh air and street energy in. Service is prompt and polite. The place looks like a good time.
The menu is standard bar fare -- a few burgers, sandwiches, salads, wings and pizzas. Munch loved the Don't Be a Jerk Chicken Sandwich ($8), a huge, juicy jerk-spiced grilled chicken breast, covered with roasted red and banana peppers, and a spicy jerk mayonnaise that brought just the right combination of heat and flavor. The side of fresh-cut fries was delicious ($3).
Gal Pal of Munch (GPOM) really dug her Local Pittsburgher ($8), a burger with American cheese mixed into the ground beef, then topped with grilled onion, tomato and roasted red pepper. She also enjoyed her side of German potato salad ($3).
Kid Brother of Munch (KBOM) was less enthusiastic about the Beat-the-Buffalo Bills Chicken Pizza ($8), topped with spicy chicken, banana peppers and cheese and cooked in a wood-fired oven. He thought it was just OK.
So our food was generally decent. But this line from the bottom of the menu raised Munch's skepticism: "We are supporting local! Our menu is prepared with the freshest breads, doughs, vegetables, meats and local signature menu items; all from Pittsburgh vendors."
Taking a local census of the Local menu, Munch finds a panini using the legendary Italian sausage from Ricci's in McKees Rocks ($8). A good start. Pizza doughs are from Mancini's, another McKees Rocks legend. Pierogies ($7), according to the menu, also come from McKees Rocks, although it doesn't specify where. (For the record, Munch inhaled an order. They were delicious.)
The menu boasts salads "made with the freshest locally grown Anthony's Original Produce." But, Anthony's is a wholesaler in Coraopolis. Not a farm. Its produce can be from anywhere. And how about the ground beef or chicken? Does it come from Pennsylvania farms? Who makes the bread?
Maybe Munch is being picky. So Local doesn't nail the local concept like a "Top Chef" contestant. It makes a modest effort and, after all, it's primarily a bar anyway. Surely then, Local features the many excellent beers being produced now in greater Pittsburgh, right?
No East End or Full Pint. No Rivertowne, Church Brew, Rust Belt or Voodoo. Not even the reincarnation of Duquesne Pilsener, once made a few blocks away. No Boyd & Blair Vodka either.
Local did stock bottles of Penn Dark, and IC Light, although it was hard to spot through the thicket of Miller Lites. The closest thing to a local draft you'll find is Yuengling, which is as local to Pittsburgh as those lovable Philadelphia Flyers.
The point is, this stuff matters, at least to some people. Plenty of chefs, restaurateurs and bartenders make truly concerted efforts to use locally raised and grown products and local beverages. Munch hardly expects that every item be from southwestern Pennsylvania. But calling a place Local and prominently playing up the concept on the menu, and then essentially paying lip service to it in practice is, as Munch's uncle would say ... slick.
First Published April 14, 2011 12:00 am