Local Kitchen & Beer Bar's arrival on Chippewa Street in downtown Buffalo is a reflection of the entertainment district's changing identity.
Soho Burger Bar and Frankie Primo's +39 were the pioneers of the district's new breed of restaurant-bars, which prove versatile for the lunch crowd and more adult-friendly for bar-goers. Welcome Local, which boasts a terrific list of 40 taps (including almost every local brewery), 14 bottled beers and 22 different varieties of bourbon, as well as staples of Buffalo food.
Formerly the nightclub Noir, Local is laid out similarly to Soho in that the oval-shaped bar is at the center of the room, with tables for dining near the front and side walls.
As Buffalo Rising notes, many of the wooden accents come from two demolished barns, lending a "saloon" feel. The new restaurant-bar sits directly east of Jim's Steakout, incredibly convenient for late-night revelers looking to satisfy sudden 4 a.m. hunger pangs.
Local's food menu should be attractive to visitors looking to sample wings, chicken wing dip and a take on a roast beef sandwich, among other sandwiches, pizzas and salads. You can see the full food and drink menus at the bottom of the page.
Consider Local a bar first, restaurant second. Two beers apiece from 12 Gates, 42 North, Big Ditch and Resurgence, three from Hamburg and four from Flying Bison -- all on tap -- are an impressive array of local brews that, to our knowledge, cannot be matched in downtown Buffalo.
Here's a rundown on what we ate (Disclaimer: Our Friday visit was at the tail-end of the restaurant's first week in business, so, like any restaurant, we anticipate improvements in the service and the quality of the food):
Appetizer: Smoky Moons (hand-crusted slices of smoky provolone deep-fried golden-brown on a pool of marinara sauce with fresh basil, $9.95)
Breakdown: These were good for sharing, the coating wasn't excessively greasy and the half-moons came apart easily with a fork (not messy). The provolone wasn't remotely smoky, but overall, this was a solid and fairly creative take on a mozzarella stick.
Appetizer: Buffalo's Best Chicken Wing Dip (shredded chicken with a molten combination of cream cheese, Gorgonzola, Frank's Hot Sauce, cheddar and mozzarella cheeses, and served with homemade tortilla chips, $9.95)
Breakdown: You can tell from the picture above that the chicken wing dip was cooked unevenly (although the chicken was cooked through the entire dish), so that was a little disappointing.
But, the chunks of chicken were large and plentiful, the cream cheese added a richness of flavor and the tortilla chips were unusual -- more puffy than crispy, with an airy texture of a rice cake.
Main dish: Cuban Torta (slow-roasted pulled pork and Camilla ham on a warm ciabatta roll topped with dill pickles, Swiss cheese and homemade chocolate stout brat mustard, $12.95)
Breakdown: This was more of a twist on a Cuban than a true representation, and it was a little dry and feeble in flavor. The homemade chocolate stout brat mustard was better than we expected -- the best bites seemed to be the ones heavy on the condiment.
More pickles -- or pickles stronger in flavor -- would have enhanced rather than hindered. The "Sidewinder Fries," which came with the sandwiches, were pleasing to the eye and softer than they were crunchy.
Main dish: Smoked brisket burger (Seasoned brisket burger topped with portobello mushrooms and Gorgonzola cheese, on a rustic roll with a "spicy kicky" sauce, $13.95)
Breakdown: The size of the burger paired with the price, and we enjoyed the generous mushroom slab and the crusty outside of the burger, but inside it was overcooked (asked for some pink, got no pink). Many restaurants, especially new ones, will cook on the conservative side of your preference.
I don't know if it was the sharpness of the Gorgonzola or the overcooked meat, but it was hard to appreciate the brisket's flavor.
Main dish: Ribeye steak sandwich (char-grilled 8-ounce ribeye steak with sauteed peppers, onions and our homemade smoked provolone cheese on garlic-butter grilled ciabatta roll, $13.95)
Breakdown: It's probably unfair to compare Local's steak sandwich to the Old Pink's legendary behemoth. But, while the peppers, onions and cheese were fine, the ribeye was so thin that it was almost impossible to cook to order.
We asked for medium rare, but we received medium to medium-well. This harkens back to the previous note about conservative cooking of meats, which is fine, but still worth noting.
One part that grew on me as I mowed through the sandwich: the garlic-butter on the ciabatta roll was an underrated addition.
With bigger appetites, we would have also tried the Local roast beef ($12.95), the chicken and pepper jack taquitos ($9.95) and the Chef's Homemade Veggie Burger ($11.95).
For now, Local Kitchen and Beer Bar boasts an outstanding beer selection, a sprawling bar area and food fitting for a curious visitor. Although it's still early, the appetizers trumped the main dishes, and "okay with plenty of room for improvement" is a decent way to sum up the food offerings.
Info: Local Kitchen and Beer Bar, 88 W. Chippewa St., 849-1000
Email Ben Tsujimoto at firstname.lastname@example.org