Local Pub and Restaurant
Grand Ave., Saratoga Springs, 587-7256. Serving 11:30-10:30
Mon-Thu, 11:30-11 Fri, 9:30 AM-11 PM Sat, 9:30 AM-10:30 PM
Sun, brunch 9:30-3 Sat-Sun. AE, D, MC. V.
classic pub fare
price range: $6 (egg salad sandwich) to $15 (steak
getting to the entryway of the Local Pub and Restaurant, I
had a panoramic view of the dining area through the many windows
that front the street. I saw a succession of families at the
tables and booths, groups defined by a wide range of ages.
Beyond them was a bar, each stool occupied, standees creating
a second row. What I didn’t see until I entered were the tables
by the fireplace, which sported another type of clientele:
the tea ladies.
That’s what my wife termed them. “They’re people like me,”
she explained, “who just want to sit someplace friendly and
enjoy a cup of tea.” What’s astonishing is not only that this
restaurant has a menu of fancy tea selections—a list that’s
about a dozen entries long—but also that a Tuesday night brings
out folks who want to consume the stuff.
It turns out to be less astonishing when you talk with co-owner
John Haynes. He’s part of Phinney Design Group, an architectural
firm in the same building, and the firm’s mission is to design
or redesign work and living spaces with a green sensibility.
talked to people in the neighborhood as we were planning this
building,” says Haynes, “to see what they’d like at this address.
And the overwhelming response was for a comfortable, casual
restaurant that they could visit a couple of times a week.”
The Local opened toward the end of 2008, its tripartite identity
already in place: restaurant, bar and teahouse. It’s a fascinating
combo in that, the night my family and I visited, the bar
scene seemed to dominate. Although, let’s face it, tea drinkers
are going to be more subdued than those downing a succession
of beers. That said, the bar folks had to hold their own against
the families with kids.
The tables, booths, benches and chairs are all a sturdy construction
of thick blond wood, with a floor layout very much like the
pubs I’ve seen in England. We slid into the last of the available
booths, offering room enough for a fat guy and companions.
(How reassuring that restaurants aren’t run according to Southwest
A busy staff kept the service going nicely. At no time did
we feel neglected. Some of the online reviews I discovered
complained of service problems, but many such semi-anonymous
postings come across as ill-informed ax-grinding. You’re better
off trusting a professional. Speaking of which: A friend named
Henry, who puts in a fair amount of professional kitchen time,
told me that I’d find the best fish and chips at the Local.
He joined us for dinner in order to help examine that and
many more offerings.
The best advertisement for a dish is to see it land on an
adjacent table. That’s why we ended up with a platter of nachos,
something I invariably regret having ordered once the cheese
oozes its way through my system. But there it was: an $8 cornucopia
of chips and jalapeño slices, tomatoes and olives, sour cream
and salsa, and all that relentless cheese, still hot and runny.
Did we restrain ourselves in the face of such bad-for-you
food? We did not. Even my wife silenced her refrain of “You
don’t have to eat that, you know” long enough to punish her
own system. In fact, at Henry’s urging, we added a plate of
poutine ($6), that Quebec-born oddity of fries topped
with cheese curds and brown gravy—in this case, melted cheddar
for the cheese portion. It’s not a combo I think about when
it’s not in front of me, but there’s an unexpected culinary
resonance here. Gravy + fries = fat-laden areas both inside
and out. Excellent.
Gravy and cheese together are an irresistible team, but cheese
alone does wonders as a topping, which is probably why it
showed up on the shepherd’s pie ($9). It’s a traditional stew
that’s classically lamb-based; this is the Americanized ground-beef
version that retains a touch of the old country with the use
of Guinness stout. It also had a range of seasoning too-often
neglected, including the judicious use of sage. The mashed
potatoes layered on top sported bits of skin and, of course,
there was cheese added to the crust.
Other such items are steak and chips ($15) and a ploughman’s
lunch ($8), while on the lighter side are tea sandwiches (cucumber
and cream cheese, mozzarella and roasted red peppers, smoked
salmon, egg salad and more, all for $6 to $7), burgers and
other grilled sandwiches ($7 to $9) and a selection of salads,
including a Caesar ($6) and a cobb ($8).
Tea for your sandwich? Try a pot ($3.75) of Earl Grey, or
my favorite: Lapsong Souchong, a smoky blend that I was served
inadvertently when it was discovered in the tin of Ginger
tea that was supposed to supply the leaves for my wife’s brew.
(They’d been vice-versa’d.)
A veggie burger is based on grilled eggplant ($8) and includes
roasted red peppers and mozzarella cheese and a side of fries:
a very nice combination. Likewise, the bangers and mash ($9)
gave a better-than-expected serving of fat, flavorful sausages
atop mashed potatoes with—you guessed it—gravy.
With fish and chips ($9) you normally want tartar sauce, but
the long, golden slab of haddock fried with a beer-batter
base was so delicious that I forgot to so enhance for much
of the meal. More fries and a side of sweet-inclined cole
slaw, all of it good, most of it packed up to go once I gave
up any hope of finishing it.
Henry was right: This is the best I’ve had a long time, and
no wonder the place has become a neighborhood favorite.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
Stuyvesant Plaza, 1475 Western Ave., Albany, 689-7777,
provence-restaurant.net. Classical French cooking
with some modern twists, from bouillabaisse to
steak au poivre with plenty in between.
Serving lunch 11:30-3 Mon-Sat, dinner 5-9 Mon,
5-10 Tue-Thu, 5-10:30 Fri-Sat, 4:30-8:30 Sun.
AE, D, MC, V.
Joe’s Pizza Place & Restaurant, 2780 Hamburg
St., Schenectady, 355-7700. Forty years of made-from-scratch
pizzas along with a full menu of Italian specialties
and American sandwiches. Serving 11-10 Mon, Wed-Thu,
11-11 Fri-Sat, 11-10 Sun. AE, MC, V.
Daisie, 183 Jay St., Schenectady, 344-7082,
chezdaisie.com. Sweet and savory crêpes offered
on a bargain-priced menu in a quaint serve-yourself
setting within sight of Proctors Theatre. Serving
lunch 11-2 Mon-Fri, 9-2 Sat; dinner 5-7:30 Mon-Sat.
Biergarten, 895 Broadway, Albany, 427-2461,
wolffsbiergarten.com. A surprising variety of
German fare in a wide-open space with hanging
lights and picnic tables. Great selection of German
beer. Serving 11 AM-2 AM Mon-Fri, 9 AM-2 AM Sat,
9 AM-midnight Sun. Lunch specials 11-4 daily.
Brunch 9-4 Sat-Sun. Cash only (ATM on premises).
Tavern, 40 Mohawk Ave., Scotia, 393-3344,
turftavern.com. Scotia’s 60-year-old dining destination,
offering excellent steaks and an old-fashioned
attitude that includes old-fashioned prices. Serving
lunch 11:30-1:30 Tue-Fri; dinner 5-9 Tue-Fri,
5-10 Sat, 11:30-8 Sun. AE, D, MC, V.
Bar & Grill, 485 Main St., Great Barrington,
Mass., 413-528-3116. Aromabarandgrill.com. A broad
array of traditional Indian fare is cooked with
an extra emphasis on flavor and served with graciousness
and aplomb. Serving lunch noon-3 Tue-Sun, dinner
5-9:30 Sun-Thu, 5-10 Fri-Sat. Sunday buffet noon-3.
AE, D, MC, V.
Tacos, 319 Ontario St., Albany, 935-1096.
Tacos and burritos in homemade tortillas with
imaginative fillings at very affordable prices.
Serving 11-11 Tue-Sat, 1-8 Sun. AE, D, MC, V.
Vietnamese Restaurant, 307 Central Ave., Albany,
436-1868. Satisfy your craving for authentic pho,
along with a generous array of characteristic
meat and vegetable dishes, including curries,
salads, and plenty of grilled items. Serving lunch
11-2:30 Tue-Sat, dinner 2:30-9 Tue-Thu, 2:30-10
Fri-Sat, 11-9 Sun. D, MC, V.