I wonder if executive chef/owner Zack Trabbold has ever met an ingredient he didn’t like.
The Local’s menu reads like a wish list for epicures with in-depth descriptions reminiscent of food writer M.F.K. Fisher’s musings. For example, Trabbold paints an enticing picture of the smoky, char-grilled oysters before they even arrive at the table. We learn the Chesapeake bivalves will be embellished with parsley, lemon, truffle-herb compound butter, aged Parmesan, crusty bread, and charred lemon. And, indeed, the five plump half shells lived up to their billing, delivered on a wooden board and resplendent in their shellfish glory.
The rest of the menu continues the same kind of detailed chronicle, leaving little doubt what is coming your way. Trabbold, who was named 2023 Chef of the Year by the Restaurant Association of Maryland, burst onto the local culinary scene in 2021 when he opened the instantly popular The Local in Fallston.
He soon expanded the fledgling eatery into a neighboring building to accommodate the crowds before venturing to open another spot on The Avenue at White Marsh last summer, where Shania Agkamirian is the corporate sous chef. She recently made a splash in the restaurant industry, winning first place at the World Food Championships in Dallas.
The star of the menu at both Local locations is the beef Wellington for two, presented on a cart tableside. Expect the dining room to pause in awe temporarily as they watch the 18-ounce hunk of rosy tenderloin cut in half before being presented with crisp red potatoes, creamed corn, and a pleasing bordelaise wine sauce.
The chef doesn’t mess with tradition in the Wellington’s preparation. The tender meat is covered with duxelle, a mushroom mixture, wrapped in flaky pastry, and baked until golden. The kitchen requires 45 minutes to make the meal; order it soon after getting settled at your table.
The only sticking point on the beef Wellington may be the price, $115. On my first visit in September, it was $105 and jumped $10 by the time I returned in November. I rationalized the price tag this way: Even after the two of us ate until we were stuffed, there were plenty of leftovers. (And I used the remaining beef at home to make a stir fry, steak and eggs, and a black-and-blue salad, so that helped balance the price tag.) There’s also a gorgeous three-pound tomahawk steak for two on the menu for serious carnivores. Maybe next time.
For a restaurant that borders on casual, with its deep-brown tones, bare tables, and industrial details, the service is impeccable. On both visits, the servers were professional and genial. A manager also visited our table—and others in the room—asking about our experience. A sense of caring permeates the space (even though there is a cheeky photo of chef Anthony Bourdain giving diners the finger hanging on the wall).
A serious list of appetizers beckons while you wait for your entrees. A wedge salad takes on a new shape as an indulgent mound of chopped iceberg lettuce, Stilton blue cheese, and applewood smoked bacon. The chicken-fried deviled eggs, featuring four plump half orbs, teased our palates with a swirl of creamy yolk, all to be dipped into a tongue-tingling rosemary hot sauce.
True to its name, The Local relies on local, seasonal ingredients, which, combined with Trabbold’s creative streak, means you should expect the menu to change. On one visit, we had crispy slices of pork belly over a mound of grits. Another time, the pork belly morphed into a different dish with peanut butter, a blueberry-ginger compote, apples, and candied jalapeños.
Besides the entrees for two, a house specialty is the beef Stroganoff, a retro classic updated with house-made pappardelle pasta and tangy hunks of blue cheese (a masterful addition) accompanying the requisite filet slices, mushrooms, and sour cream.
If you’re not a meat-eater, don’t worry. The kitchen has you covered with offerings like lobster pot pie, salmon, crab cakes, scallops, and fish. We sampled a luxurious halibut filet encrusted with herbs and Parmesan, served on cheesy risotto, and smothered with baby arugula hinting of truffle oil.
Desserts are basic but not boring, from a decadent bananas Foster to a flourless chocolate torte. Other choices include a seasonal selection from Newberry Bakery in Bel Air (Smith Island cake in the fall) and a seasonal crème brûlée (peach in late summer and, you guessed it, pumpkin spice in November).
“We’re not fine dining,” Trabbold says, describing The Local’s food as elevated comfort food.
But dining at The Local on The Avenue tastes just fine to me.
THE LOCAL ON THE AVENUE: 8161 Honeygo Blvd., Nottingham, 410-870-8250. HOURS: Sun. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. brunch, 4-9 p.m. dinner; Mon.-Thurs. 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. lunch, 4-10 p.m. dinner; Fri. Sat. 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. lunch, 4-11 p.m. dinner. PRICES: Soups, salads, appetizers: $8-39; sandwiches: $14-17; entrees: $28-145; desserts, $9-12; also, market-price selections. AMBIANCE: Sophisticated, industrial vibe