Dining Review: Local offers creative take on pub grub

Photos by Kyle Kurlick/Special to The Commercial Appeal
The second floor of the Local Gastropub in Overton Square features casual dining areas with couches and lounge chairs where groups can relax and mingle while enjoying their food.

Photo by Kyle Kurlick // Buy this photo

Photos by Kyle Kurlick/Special to The Commercial Appeal The second floor of the Local Gastropub in Overton Square features casual dining areas with couches and lounge chairs where groups can relax and mingle while enjoying their food.

The seared tuna salad features mixed greens, crispy wontons, sesame ginger aioli and a honey lime vinaigrette.

Photo by Kyle Kurlick

The seared tuna salad features mixed greens, crispy wontons, sesame ginger aioli and a honey lime vinaigrette.

December 29, 2012 — One of the featured dishes at the Local Gastropub in Overton Square is the Robert Johnson, a fried pork medallion on sliced tomato and English muffin served with a poached egg and Tasso cream sauce. (Kyle Kurlick/Special to The Commercial Appeal)

Photo by Kyle Kurlick

December 29, 2012 — One of the featured dishes at the Local Gastropub in Overton Square is the Robert Johnson, a fried pork medallion on sliced tomato and English muffin served with a poached egg and Tasso cream sauce. (Kyle Kurlick/Special to The Commercial Appeal)

The Local Gastropub in Overton Square, known as Local on the Square, opened to supplement the established Downtown location. The upstairs location will be remembered by longtime locals as the former home to the Hot Air Balloon.

Photo by Kyle Kurlick

The Local Gastropub in Overton Square, known as Local on the Square, opened to supplement the established Downtown location. The upstairs location will be remembered by longtime locals as the former home to the Hot Air Balloon.

One of the featured dishes at Local is the well-dressed hamburger, one of the best in town.

Photo by Kyle Kurlick

One of the featured dishes at Local is the well-dressed hamburger, one of the best in town.

On my first visit to Local Gastropub in Overton Square, I met a friend upstairs for lunch. Halfway up the steps, I shook my head as a wave of nostalgia hit without warning.

The place cleaned up real nice — it looks great. But the stairs that cut through the middle of the building are still there, and walking up them evoked a strong memory of the old Hot Air Balloon (upstairs from Yosemite Sam's) and the performance duo that welcomed visitors with insults. I involuntarily braced myself, if just for an instant, then continued on up the steps.

If the revitalization of Overton Square is as successful as Local appears to be, ghosts such as this are likely to haunt many others as crowds return to the crossroads of Madison and Cooper in droves.

Local opened in October, smack dab on the northeast corner, after a lengthy renovation of the former Yosemite Sam's. Like the first Local, which opened on South Main in January 2010, emphasis is on beer, specialty cocktails and a nice menu of so-called pub grub — hearty, unpretentious yet thoughtful and creative dishes.

There's a lunch menu that features a different $10 lunch each weekday, from meatloaf and brisket to chicken (two ways) and lasagna. A generous portion of smoked, roughly shredded beef brisket in a tangy and slightly sweet Dr Pepper barbecue sauce is served on Wednesday, alongside green chili mac and an order of firecracker slaw. It's delicious and straightforward — meat, starch and vegetable — and it's particularly appealing on days such as the cold and gray ones that plagued us in December.

On Friday, Chicken Newport is the lunch special. A healthier alternative to a hearty beef lunch? Oh, no. Thick slices of chicken breast are sauteed in an enormous amount of butter, then covered in a garlic cream sauce and given a liberal sprinkling of blue cheese crumbles. The green beans that came with ours, the vegetable of the day, offered no virtue, floating as they were on that golden pool of butter/oil. The dish was bursting with flavor, though at a much higher caloric cost than I'm willing to pay.

There are salads on the menu, but it's cold outside and I was more interested in the heartier fare. A $10 half sandwich and soup lunch of grilled cheese and chorizo chili was ideal for a rainy day. The grilled cheese varies; I was served a combination of blue cheese and Gouda on buttery toasted brioche, dressed with chipotle mayonnaise, tomato and bacon. Delicious. The chili needed salt, but there's salt at the table and it just took a dash to fix it right up.

The regular menu, which includes a small but satisfying selection of entrees, a fabulous burger, salads and sandwiches, is also available at lunch. Let's talk about that burger.

Santa could've brought it to me for Christmas and I would've been happy. I won't say it's the best burger in town, because come on, there are a lot of great burgers in town. But I will say that the one I shared was one of the best burgers I've tasted — ever. The Donnell Farms beef was tender, juicy and buttery, perfectly seasoned and cooked to medium, topped with paper-thin slices of red onion, sweet dill slices, mustard and Gouda, our choice of cheese. Bacon, fried egg and foie gras are available, but we resisted and I'm glad. The burger was unbeatable as served.

The duck bahn mi sandwich was very good, and what's not to love about duck, pork belly, Sriracha sauce and cilantro-lime slaw on a baguette?

Tomato jam makes just one appearance on the menu; I'd love to see more of it. But what a splash it makes, spread on a fat biscuit with an order of fish and grits. The entree came with a large portion of lightly breaded and fried catfish, tender spicy greens, a heaping helping of stone-ground grits, and the biscuit and jam.

The food delivers, and the place is enormously popular. It was full when we ate lunch there last week, despite it being later than 1 p.m. Sunday dinner was also packed. Service was harried on our first visit in November, but much improved a month later (as was the food).

While spacious, with high ceilings and windows along the full front and part of the east, Local feels cozy and welcoming. It's on the loud side (very loud one night, when the security alarm went off and no one was able to stop it for about 10 minutes), but it's the noise of people happily going about the business of eating, drinking and visiting.

Local Gastropub

Food:

Service:

Atmosphere:

Address: 2126 Madison

Telephone: 901-725-1845.

Hours: Opens daily at 11 a.m. and the bar is open until 3 a.m. The kitchen is open until 1 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Reviewer’s choice: Local burger ($12); grilled cheese and chorizo chili ($10); brisket lunch special ($10); fish and grits, ($22).

Alcohol: Full bar.

Star Ratings

Poor: Zero stars

Good: One star

Very Good: Two stars

Excellent: Three stars

Extraordinary: Four stars

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Comments » 3

BogeyMan2013 writes:

You forgot something: the prices are OUTRAGEOUS!

ronansmithee writes:

in response to BogeyMan2013:

You forgot something: the prices are OUTRAGEOUS!

This is true, especially for what you get.

The lobster mac and cheese was soupy, chorizo chili was bad, and the burger needs seasoning.

They have some pretty nice beer selections there, unfortunately all the yuppies and bros just order Miller Lite.

Samara writes:

Just to avoid confusion for people trying it out for the first time, Jennifer got her direction mixed up... it sits on the northwest corner of Madison and Cooper, not the northeast- that is the long closed French Quarter Inn hotel(which seriously needs to be dealt with).
Anyway, thanks for the great work, Jennifer. I love your reviews... you are one of the very few excellent journalists left at the CA, and they damn well better keep you around. You are one of the ONLY reasons why I still read it.

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