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Local, not local

Delicious food a big reason this restaurant chain is growing across the country

Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 11/12/2019 (241 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Despite the name, Local Public Eatery is not exactly local, being part of the Joey restaurant group. There are a dozen Locals in cities across Canada.

Restaurant review

Local Public Eatery
274 Garry St.
204-557-1729; localpubliceatery.com

Local Public Eatery
274 Garry St.
204-557-1729; localpubliceatery.com

Go for: upscale bar food and drinks
Best bet: a good boozy brunch
Shareable apps: $7.25-19; Mains: $14-24.50

Monday-Friday: 11 a.m.-late; Saturday-Sunday: 10 a.m.-late
Licensed: yes
Wheelchair accessible: yes
Noise level: high

★★★1/2 stars

 

STAR POWER

★★★★★ Excellent
★★★★ Very Good
★★★ Good
★★ Mediocre
★ Substandard
No stars Not recommended 

Our burg’s Local, recently opened in a refurbished two-storey downtown venue that used to be home to The Pint, offers patrons a reliable corporate replica of indie authenticity, which is all very 21st century and postmodern. Like the Leopold’s Tavern chain, which constructs instant "dive bars," Local is a neighbourhood public eatery with the idiosyncratic edges smoothed out.

Enough of the cultural theory, though. What about the food and drink?

One of the reasons the Local concept is spreading across the country is that it’s pretty good at what it does.

The menu is a take on upscale bar fare, from snacks to full dinners, featuring recent trends, global influences and a lot of avocados. There’s also an extensive liquor menu, and management is smart enough to be genuinely local in their beer selection, with a rotation of popular Winnipeg brews. A chalked-up board lists what’s on tap and what’s on deck.

General Manager Sean Lough (left) with Chef Adam Dary and a selection of dishes including (from top left clockwise): Local burger, Mexican fish tacos with tomato soup, poke rice bowl, Thai noodle salad and power bowl. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)

General Manager Sean Lough (left) with Chef Adam Dary and a selection of dishes including (from top left clockwise): Local burger, Mexican fish tacos with tomato soup, poke rice bowl, Thai noodle salad and power bowl. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)

Shareable apps include a nice calamari, light but crisp, with little crunches of squid but also deep-fried chilis and onions, served with a garlicky tzatziki and some marinara. The Szechuan edamame is boosted with toasted sesame seeds and chili sauce.

Fish tacos, with crispy beer-battered pieces of fish, are fine, though the pico de gallo could have been brighter and fresher, coming off as more of a salsa.

The Local hamburger, which features two flattened beef patties, nicely caramelized on the outside, melty American cheese, shredded lettuce and "secret house sauce" on a reassuringly soft bun, tastes a bit like a swanky version of a Big Mac (in a cheeky, non-trademark-infringing kind of way). There are several burger options, including a hotsy Diablo and a Brooklyn burger with onion rings and house-made relish, and you can also order burgers Protein Style (a West Coast In-N-Out Burger way of asking for a lettuce wrap instead of a bun) or opt for a gluten-free bun.

The Local hamburger tastes a bit like a swanky version of a Big Mac. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)

The Local hamburger tastes a bit like a swanky version of a Big Mac. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)

Regular fries are good, skinny and nicely salty, and yam fries, crisp without being overly coated, are served with lemon aioli.

The poke rice bowl, which starts with meaty chunks of ahi tuna, is arranged on a dish like a composed salad, with lots of fresh, distinct flavours and textures, including seasoned cukes, tofu with a crunchy crust and edamame beans. It’s all finished with a drizzling — but not a drowning — of miso mayo.

Dessert comes down to just one option, but it’s a simple and good one — little doughnuts with a dusting of cinnamon-sugar, served warm with a dip of chocolate hazelnut sauce.

Local serves brunch on the weekends, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Day drinking options include a spicy Caesar and a refreshing grapefruit mimosa.

Sous-vide poached eggs, a method that yields creamy, never watery results, are served with a juicy Italian sausage on a bed of chickpeas in a tomatoey sauce with just an edge of spicy heat. This is a good dish slightly undone by the hard, dry accompanying toasted baguette slices.

A tasty hash starts with a raft of shredded potatoes — crispy on the outside and soft inside — covered with tender braised beef and bits of bacon and topped with a frazzley fried egg.

I’m not sure about the chicken and waffles. This popular dish can be a good compromise candidate for those torn between sweet brunch and salty brunch, but here the tricky balance of peppery southern-fried chicken and sugary waffle, brokered some with some hollandaise and slaw, doesn’t quite come together.

Thai noodle salad (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)

Thai noodle salad (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)

Brunch servings aren’t huge, which is a good thing, and you can always add on with sides, including grilled avocado, unctuous but smoky, or extra sausage or bacon.

Happy-hour offerings and daily drink specials can help keep down costs.

The semi-industrial-looking space works well, in a laidback way, the old Pint location having been opened up with an extensive renovation. There’s a big bank of black-framed windows, white walls with contrasting black woodwork and some old-timey black-and-white hexagon tile floors spread over two full storeys. The main floor, which centres on a big central bar, features booth, table and bar seating (as well as loud music and several TV screens). The second floor is even more casual.

During Jets games, parking in the neighbourhood can get scarce and/or expensive, and you might want to reserve a table. The buzz is very big-city, though, and the staff is good at handling the crush. Last Tuesday it looked as if everyone wearing sports jerseys was in, served and out in time for the puck drop.

Even on less sporty occasions, the kitchen at Local is fast, and service is unfailingly upbeat and mostly efficient. Staffers are all dressed in black, and somehow, by some kind of crazy coincidence, they’re all good-looking young people. (I mean, gosh, what are the odds?)

alison.gillmor@freepress.mb.ca

Alison Gillmor

Alison Gillmor
Writer

Studying at the University of Winnipeg and later Toronto’s York University, Alison Gillmor planned to become an art historian. She ended up catching the journalism bug when she started as visual arts reviewer at the Winnipeg Free Press in 1992.

Read full biography

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