“When you suck the house made ketchup off the fries you know you are someplace special.” That’s the FB status I posted at lunch today.
I was in Cincinnati and had enough time between my last meeting and my flight to have one good meal. I had planned to go to Triple-D joint Virgil’s Cafe in Bellevue, KY. But that was a $30 cab ride from my hotel.
Instead I stumbled across Local 127, a “New American Eatery” south of the Over the Rhine district. It was just around the block from the hotel, so those $30 went to the food not the cab. Thank you, Zagat’s mobile app.
Roasted Beets, Capicola and Goat Cheese with Crispy Shallots and a Red Wine Reduction
Local 127 is home to chef and master sommelier Steven Geddes. In three years, Geddes, a Farm to Table enthusiast, has created a small yet very thoughtful and well executed menu. I poured over the 18 small and large plate options for at least 10 minutes before I could even decide on a glass of wine. Ann, my waitress, was very helpful with her wine recommendations. She had a tougher job helping me with the food. She loved everything on the menu and her descriptions sounded so good they made it harder to decide what to try. Probably an unavoidable problem, given the quality on display here.
I finally decided on the 2010 Tarima Monastrell for the wine. That narrowed my appetizer choices enough that I went with the roasted beets, capicola and goat cheese. It was a simple dish, elegantly presented, and absolutely top notch. Everything in this dish worked together, right down to the crispy shallots that looked like the cutest, crunchiest little onion rings you’ve ever seen (did I mention that the shallots are fried in the Mother of All Fats?).
Buffalo Wings? Not exactly.
Deciding on the entree was my next challenge. The choices ranged from the sophisticated, like Sea Scallops, Celery Root, English Peas, Almonds and Parsley Oil, to the down home, like Cheesy Grits, Hot Soft Egg, Crispy Shallots, Buttered Hot Sauce and Greens.
I was so impressed by the beets I had to see what they could do with the simple Buffalo Wing.
Confit Chicken Legs, Buttered Frank’s Hot Sauce, Blue Cheese and Fries
Did I say simple? Not even close. First of all, these weren’t wings. They were locally sourced, small, drumsticks, and they weren’t fried. They were cooked confit in duck fat. Instead of the crispy texture you expect with wings, these were buttery, tender and soft. The meat slid off the bone and melted in my mouth.
I love Buffalo wings. This variation was just epic. For my taste, it could have used a bit more heat. But that is a personal preference. As they were served, they were phenomenal. A side of straight Frank’s or Tabasco would have made them perfect.
I had to wait a couple of minutes for the confit chicken legs to cool enough to touch them. I killed that time eating the fries. They were very well executed, but the real killer there was the ketchup. It was sweeter and less salty/vinegary than most ketchup. More like a thin tomato jam. I’m not kidding when I say I sucked it off the fries. The ketchup was so good, I didn’t even realize I was doing that at first.
I’m not a big sweets guy, so I usually skip dessert. Today I had time to kill and everything else had been so good, I tried the trio of gelati, Salted Caramel, Mexican Vanilla and Dutch Chocolate served over a toasted oat crunch.
Chocolate and caramel go well with red wine. Sue me.
A big wet kiss
I’m usually not so enthused in these reviews. But today there was just nothing not to like. Local 127 delivered with each dish and the staff was great. I spent at least an hour talking with them about the restaurant, the food and their philosophy.
Local 127’s prices are surprisingly moderate. For lunch, dishes range from $9 to $28, with most of the menu in the $9 to $15 range. For me, with three courses and wine, it wasn’t a cheap lunch. But it was worth every penny.
Shallots to go!
And, at the end of it all, they gave me a little container of the crispy shallots to eat on my way to the airport.
I’ll be back.