Friday, January 9, 2009

I Wish I Was Local, Local 44

Yesterday afternoon, at about 4pm, my lovely dining companion and I stopped in the new Local 44 prior to dinner at Distrito (and a quick stop at Dock Street). Since it was Thursday afternoon, we had no trouble parking at 44th and Spruce.

The bar was empty, save one local musician and the owner Leigh. I was happy to see it without people, because it is a very beautiful, sleek, space. The bar area has tables as well, but the main dining room is separated from the bar by a wall with a large rectangular gap in it.

The focal point of the entire place, decor-wise, is a beautiful old fire door that the owners found behind dry wall during construction. It makes for the coolest drink shelf.

After taking a look around, we grabbed seats at the bar and started off with what else, a Cantillon Lou Pepe Framboise ('06). It's a little young and fruit forward, but finishes sour with a touch of dryness.

The 20-tap list, as a whole, is well selected. Most beer styles are covered and there's a nice balance between Europe and American craft brews.

My second beer was Fraoch Heather Ale, a Scottish Gruit, on the hand pump. With sweet gale and flowering heather added to the boil, and fresh heather flowers added as it cools, this beer has a lot going on. Served at nearly room temperature, it was medium-bodied, creamy, sweet and malty with a touch of espresso or coffee in the finish.

Moving on to the food, we sampled the Mini Corn Dogs. After only 9 days of being open, the Mini Corn Dogs already have a good reputation, and we weren't disappointed. Two hot dogs are cut into 8 small pieces, battered with cornbread and deep fried. Served with spicy Dijon, they were perfectly simple and delicious.

Trying to save ourselves for Distrito, we only ordered one more item, the Spinach Croquettes. There are other items on the menu I'd like to sample next time; specifically, the Cuban and the Oyster Mushroom Po' boy. Currently, the menu is mostly sandwiches and bar snacks. I'm sure it will evolve, as most newly-opened restaurant menus do.

Besides the beautiful fire door, the next coolest thing is a note at the bottom of the tap list announcing that they only serve 1 bottle: Orval. Leigh said that since it's not available on tap, they just didn't want to be a bar without Orval. I have to say, this is a creatively calculated move. It solidifies the bar as a tap house and avoids all of the issues of a bottle list (coolers, dry storage, cold storage, an updated/accurate list, bottle selection, cost).

I won't bicker over the choice of Orval. It's a classic that doesn't fit into any specific beer style. How perfect is that? You don't have to stylistically justify picking Westmalle Dubble over Westmalle Tripel (also not available on draft).

After such a short visit, I'm certain that I will be back soon. I only wish I was Local...

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