When we arrived on a Saturday for our 5 p.m. reservation, the space felt cozier than I remembered it during the Bistro incarnation. There is lots of wood and the off-white chairs, and booths are comfortable enough for a long, leisurely dinner.
The walls are decorated with a variety of American pop art. Of particular note is the Green Eggs and Ham wall, which Geddes said adds some whimsy to the atmosphere and connects us to a particular part of our shared American food culture history.
The hostess guided us to a booth right next to the kitchen so we were able to occasionally peek in and see what the back of the house was up to. A server quickly dropped off Ball jars of water, which complemented the centerpiece — a Ball jar filled with a dried ear of corn, dried herbs and what I assumed to be sand until one of my friends suggested cornmeal made more sense.
We started with L’Ecole Chardonnay ($48), which was at the lower price range for the selection of bottled wines the restaurant offers, and nibbled on the freshly made cornbread as we made our small plate selections. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to order something from the Cured and Pickled category of the menu, so I selected the Confit Chicken Wings, with pickled chilies, and a cider vinegar gastrigue ($8). My friends chose the Potato Skin with bacon bits, candied onion and an aged white cheddar cheese whiz ($9), as well as the Roasted Beets, with prosciutto and goat cheese ($11).
The chicken was served in a large bowl and was quite naked looking.
“It’s chicken wings,” I said, unable to hide the disappointment in my voice. Don’t get me wrong, they were good chicken wings (and tiny drumsticks), but I was expecting something that looked a little more exotic given the menu description. And in ordering an item in a pickled category, I expected a much more substantial vinegary flavor. (We ended up deciding the tiny flecks of green were the pickled chili.)
The beets and potato dishes were much more successful for us. Even the girl who thinks beets taste like dirt (that would be me) thought they were good. The potato skin was more substantial than I expected, like a whole baked potato rather that the skin. It was nestled beneath a draping mantle of white cheddar “whiz” that deserves a sentence or two of explanation.
On follow up, Geddes said that in creating their recipes they start with the traditional approach and then adapt the dishes to get the maximum flavor of the ingredient. In the case of the cheese whiz, they start with a traditional recipe for a cheese sauce, replace the large amount of flour with a small amount of the thickener xanthan gum, replace the cream with milk and dispense it out of a whipped cream dispenser after blending all the ingredients.
For dinner I tried another chicken dish, Chicken Two Ways with mac and cheese and fried green tomato ($22). My friends had the Sea Scallops with butternut squash, chopped zucchini and a sprinkle of rice crispies ($26), and the House Ground Smoked Burger with white cheddar ($14).
The sautéed chicken breast, which was fanned out in slices over the chicken confit, was tender and I truly enjoyed its simplicity. For the tomato I had envisioned something more in a dusted-in-cornmeal-and-sautéed family rather than breaded and deep fried, but the citrus burst made up for the thwarted expectation. The cheese whiz made an encore appearance in the mac and cheese — my little pasta were swimming in it.
The three meaty scallops were sautéed, creating a thin, crispy outer layer. The burger had a wonderful smoky flavor and was served on a house-made bun. It would have been my favorite of our selections if my friend hadn’t bitten into what she described as a piece of gristle about halfway through her meal.
When we told the server, he apologized. And that was that. The entire evening seemed to be one of mismatched expectations, but I have to say this one was the most surprising. No one made any attempt to make things right. Of course, it might have been a bad night to take the gristle situation to the person in charge since we had heard someone’s temper explode in the kitchen a few minutes earlier.
The final surprise of the evening came in the form of another Ball jar. I thought the server had set down something that would accompany our Sour Cream Cheesecake with graham crumbles and blueberry preserves ($9). I think it was a good 20 seconds before I realized it was the cheesecake (with a plum sauce rather than the advertised berry sauce).
We laughed, sunk our spoons in and finished the evening with a French press of really good coffee ($4/small and $9/large) served with dark chocolate chips, raw sugar.
We talked a lot about our dining experience as we finished our coffee, commenting on the fact that Local 127 is trying to walk a difficult line between fresh, local food and the more upscale dining experience we felt was indicated by the patrons we saw, the interactions we had with the staff and the prices. ©
Go: 413 Vine St., Downtown
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11:30 a.m.- 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 5-10 p.m. Sunday
Entrée Prices: $18-$26
Red Meat Alternatives: Chicken and seafood