Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Special Event @ Local Kitchen & Wine Merchant

Local Kitchen & Wine Merchant is a restaurant that I frankly don't understand.  The location is a bit odd, tucked away on 1st St between Folsom & Harrison, a very busy street, but busy with cars headed onto the Bay Bridge.  It is not much of a walking neighborhood, and certainly wasn't when Local opened several years ago, and none of these cars pull over.

And yet, they aim to be a casual neighborhood restaurant.  They are open for weekday lunch, weekend brunch, and dinner every night.  The menu isn't extensive, nor fancy, just the basics like pizza, pasta, a handful of mains, a few apps.  Not really a menu I was drawn in by.  A decent wine and cocktail program.

No real reason for it to stand out.  Which, it never has.  I remember visiting once years ago, and thinking "Meh, nothing interesting", and commenting that it was pretty pricey for what it was.  I went to an event about a year ago with pizza from Local, and again, thought "Well, that was ok pizza, but for nearly $20 for a small pizza, why?"

But, my apartment building had an event hosted there, so I had a chance to check it out for free.  Why not?

We occupied a large space in the middle of the dining room, and food was brought out as ready, mostly appetizers and finger foods from their party menu, plus plenty of the signature pizzas.

I was not impressed with the experience.  It was very loud.  Food was brought without a description.  There was no cutlery.  It just didn't seem all that well equipped to handle our group.

That said, the food was delivered hot and fresh, the staff were friendly, and my glass of Pinot Noir was actually really quite good.

Would I go back?  Nah.  Was it awful?  Nah.  My opinion is basically just as before.  It is fine, but not notable in any way, and kinda pricey for what it is.  But, they seem to be succeeding, so I clearly am just missing something.

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Smoky chicken skewers | roasted shishito peppers, black garlic aioli. $7 (Happy Hour) $12 (Dinner)

Our group started with a big bowl of fried chicken bits, with a smaller bowl of roasted shisitos, and a little bowl of black garlic aioli.

There were no serving utensils provided, and none of us had cutlery.  So ... people grabbed with their fingers.  Eww!

Since we didn't know what anything was, I just saw crispy fried things with creamy sauce, and grabbed one.  The crispy coating was tasty, not oily, nicely seasoned, but inside was chicken.  It was moist enough, and probably good if you like chicken (people seemed to like it), but I don't like chicken, so this wasn't for me.

The menu says the dip was aioli, but it tasted like butter to me.  The texture was that of soft butter, and it wasn't creamy in the way aioli is.  It wasn't really pleasant to dip into.

The roasted shisitos were pretty standard.

Overall, a pass for me, but, I don't like chicken.
Local Burger Slider.
"Caramelized onion, aged cheddar, lettuce, heirloom tomato, pickles."

Next came platters of sliders, in 3 varieties: fried chicken with slaw, classic cheeseburger, and veggie.

Since I don't like chicken, I stayed away from the fried chicken ones.

I took what I thought was a regular beef cheeseburger, but it turned out to be a veggie slider, a bun stuffed with a few slimy roasted veggies (onions, bell peppers), and romesco sauce.  It wasn't very good, and the table quickly turned into a pile of discarded sliders.

On the 3rd or so round, I was finally able to grab a beef slider, a smaller version of their burger, a menu staple at all meals.

The slider roll was the same as the veggie one, nice enough looking, shiny top, black and white sesame seeds, toasted, but it wasn't particularly fresh tasting.

The patty was ... odd.  I bit into it, and it was sorta ... chewy?  But, when I looked down, it was pink.  I was impressed that it didn't *look* overcooked, as it is hard to have a slider come out less than well done, and, I'd call this medium.  Except, the texture was just strange, it wasn't juicy, and the flavor wasn't very good.

The aged cheddar was nicely melted on though, the lettuce was fresh and crisp, and the pickles flavorful and crunchy.  And each had two pickles!  It also had plenty of mayo, which I of course liked.

It was really strange how well executed it was (melty cheese, fresh veggies, toasted bun, pink meat), yet it wasn't actually good.

$16 for a regular burger at dinner, and $50 for 10 sliders on the event menu.  I guess it was good for a $5 item?


Pizza is the star attraction at Local, served at all meals.  The open-ish kitchen features a wood burning pizza oven.  The menu has only 5 pizzas, although you can also create your own.  Our group received 3 types of pizza (Margherita, Salsiccia, Funghi).

The pizzas were always brought out and placed in the same spot on the table, e.g. sausage on one end, margherita in the middle, and mushroom on the other, and it was impossible to get to anything not right in front of you, which meant I wasn't ever able to try the one I really wanted, the sausage.

I'm not much of a pizza girl, but it was decent.
Funghi. $19 (Dinner only).
"Porcini cream, wild mushrooms, arugula." 

The pizza that kept coming in front of me was the funghi.  I do like mushrooms though, so I wasn't upset to try it.

But, it wasn't very good.  Hot and fresh, yes.  The crust, crispy enough on the bottom.  But I didn't care for the cream sauce and cheese, nor the heavy mushroom flavor.  It tasted like fake, cheap, truffle oil, in a way that permeates everything.  And there was too much cheese.

Along with the veggie sliders, many people left slices of this discarded on their plates.  I was actually pretty surprised by how much people just left behind, as that isn't really normal behavior at events.

$19 for a pizza of this size and quality seems way too high.
Margherita. $9 (Happy Hour) $15 (Dinner).
"San marzano, basil, fior di latte, extra virgin olive oil. "

I finally managed to snag a slice of the Margherita, the one I remember thinking was decent before at an event.

And, it was much better, certainly the best thing I ate.

The crust was crispy, the sauce tangy and well seasoned, the fior di latte just barely melted and flavorful, and the torn basil fresh.

A very simple Margherita, but, good enough.
Local Kitchen & Wine Merchant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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