On the heels of John Kessler’s glowing review of newcomer Local Three Kitchen & Bar in the AJC is my equally glowing review. Luckily I visited before the AJC ran the story, because now it seems to be near impossible to get a reservation at the popular new restaurant. Opened by the founders of Muss & Turner’s and Chef Chris Hall, Local Three stepped onto the scene late last year in a big way. The restaurant is housed in the old JOEL Brasserie space off Northside Pkwy. in Vinings/Buckhead, and while it retains some of the trappings of its former upscale inhabitant, the owners have updated the decor to a kind of “down home chic.” (Props for the “George P. Burdell was here” board on their accent wall)
Above is the nearly hidden entryway. We had to backtrack once to find it (as did the ladies we were following), so it feels almost like a clandestine destination. In fact, the directions from the lobby would go a little something like this: “On your left, down the hallway, just past the bathrooms…” I’m sad to say that the above photo is the best of the bunch that I have from this dinner. Not only did I forget my camera, but Mario forgot his iPhone which usually works as our stand-in. The camera on my phone was just not working for me in the low light of the restaurant. Hopefully the lack of photographic imagery won’t detract from the review.
Mario and I both ended up ordering two “small plates” each in lieu of an actual entree. This was a good way to taste more of the menu, and we both ended up full anyway. I ordered the braised lamb shoulder (spiced lentils, yogurt) and the roasted mushrooms (creamy polenta, truffle jus), and Mario had oven-roasted chicken wings (celery root remoulade) and “Breakfast for Dinner” (maple glazed pork belly, fried egg, grits).
I got to snag one of Mario’s roasted chicken wings and found them very juicy and nicely seasoned. Often, wings will be dried out and hard, but these were perfect and made it easy to leave behind only a cleaned bone. The celery root remoulade was not a sauce at all, which made me wonder if the item was changed after the menu was written. It was actually a celery root slaw, and unfortunately I wasn’t a huge fan of the flavor. I only got a spoonful of grits from the Breakfast for Dinner (Mario wasn’t keen on sharing), and they were creamy but retained their “grits” texture (in contrast to the polenta that came with my roasted mushrooms, which was super smooth–as it should be). The maple pork belly disappeared the fastest–but really, is pork belly ever bad?
My roasted mushrooms were HEAVENLY. I think I may have actually moaned after the first bite. I wanted to ask for bread to sop up the truffle jus in the bowl, but I ended up getting it all with my spoon after all. The meaty mushrooms and creamy polenta were perfect together and much more filling than I expected. Because of this, I wasn’t quite able to finish the fantastic braised lamb shoulder, which nearly melted in my mouth it was so tender. I loved the tangy creaminess of the yogurt, and the hearty lentils were in good contrast to the tenderness of the lamb, which made this dish also end up being more food than expected.
I have to also comment on the service at Local Three, which was really outstanding. Our waitress was super friendly and made some great menu suggestions (like the roasted mushrooms). Other waitstaff were also very attentive, a number of other people removed empty plates as they passed by or brought out extra silverware. I joked that Local Three must have retained the “water guy” from JOEL, because the water service was on par with some of the more upscale eateries I’ve visited–the level on my water glass never dropped more than an inch.
The guys at Local Three use some serious phraseology to describe their values and their passion for food. Two values I love: “Delicious trumps. Pretense stinks.” They encourage you to “sit deep and stay long” at the restaurant and try some tongue-in-cheek menu items like “The McDowell” burger (name that movie! One of Mario’s favorites) and the “Darling Nikki” entree salad (looove me some Prince!). I’m eagerly anticipating another visit to Local Three to try and get a taste of every delicious thing on their menu.