-4 Snaps! Strongly recommended
Touting a motto of Southern Roots-Locally Refined, The Local took over the Square One space on Henderson Blvd. in South Tampa in late June. The interior redesign maintains the same layout but adds warm punchy lighting and woody surfaces.
According to our server The Local is trying to elicit a local neighborhood vibe and feature their version of southern comfort food.
For starters we order the Devil's Eggs ($10). Hard boiled egg whites are battered and deep fried and then piped with deviled egg yolk. They're finished with a slice of jalapeno and bacon and served of a bed of greens and are fantastic. That delicate fried batter on the egg white adds an unusual crunch and the bacon a porky punch. Yep, I'd have these again.
Shrimp and Grit Cakes ($18) are the house version of the NOLO classic. The grit cakes are cut into wedges and fried in a peppery batter, then double stacked. A spicy sauce ladled on with large Gulf shrimp and chopped andouille sausage is topped by shallots. The shrimp are large and cooked to perfection and the sauce, with heavy influence from that sausage and a wealth of butter, is divine.
The simplicity of The Locals Chicken Pot Pie ($15) is contrary to the over-do-it trend happening in so many eateries recently. It's sweet corn bread baked in a small skillet, scooped out and filled with a traditional pot pie filling. The filling consists of chicken, celery, sweet peas, carrots, and herbs. Using cornbread instead of the usual pie crust adds another twist of the South to an already southern dish. The bread is sweet and crispy- kind of muffin like. The filling is bite sized chunks of chicken in a creamy savory gravy with vegetables. My table mate remarks that it's too much bread and not enough filling. I agree. The balance could be better, but the dish takes me back to simpler times and the taste of the cornbread and filling is just right.
There are many items I still want to try. While southern food is the foundation, the menu swerves into tacos, charcuterie, and even Cuban sandwiches. When I go back I'm going to try the Crab Corn Chowder. I missed it this time because it is oddly placed on the menu.
The exterior of the building got an upgrade in finishes but retained the same architecture as before. The addition of fake turf seems a little hoaky, but adds to the outdoor appeal.
The prices are high for southern fare and our server was over zealous in his sales pitch of the more expensive items. They offer a decent beer and wine list and a variety of creaft cocktails.Staff is friendly and engaging. Opened by the owners of Hula Bay and Green Iguana, the new eatery comes with some know-how. At first glance it seems like they got it right. I love southern food, and The Local is calling me back.
Chip Weiner is a Tampa food blogger and an award winning freelance photographer specializing in portraiture, food photography and photojournalism . He has been a photography instructor for over 10 years and teaches Tampa photography classes throughout the year. Have a suggestion for a food event or restaurant? Contact him here
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