Food & Drink

The Local Raises the Bar for Harford County Dining

Chef Zack Trabbold opens a spot of his own, sourcing all ingredients within a 10-mile radius.
—Photography by Justin Tsucalas

Zack Trabbold has worked all over town, from Del Frisco’s Steakhouse to The Bygone in Harbor East (where he was chef de cuisine). But the Wilmington, DE, native had long dreamed of having a place of his own. In late August, he opened The Local, an elevated comfort-food spot in Harford County. Within a few months, the 90-seat restaurant had become so popular, Trabbold decided to expand next door, nearly doubling the size of the space.

“I’ve had the concept in my head for a long time,” says the 33-year-old chef, who was nominated as Best Chef in Maryland in 2019. “It’s completely different from any other restaurant in Maryland. A lot of people say, ‘farm-to-table,’ but we don’t call it ‘farm-to-table,’ we just buy whatever we can locally to suit our style of cooking. All our beers on draft are strictly beers from Maryland. The liquors, and cordials, including Black Water Distillery and Sagamore, are all from Maryland. Even our charcuterie boards are custom-made right here in Fallston.”

Why did you want to open in Harford County?
There was just this lack of great spots in Harford County, where I live. I’m already looking for a second location.

Tell me about some of the signature items on the menu.
We feature comfort food but it’s not something you’d get anywhere else. For example, we have pot pie, but it’s a lobster pot pie. We have beef stroganoff, but the noodles are homemade, the beef is from Roseda Farm, the mushrooms are Hen of the Woods, and there’s some blue cheese on top and a red-wine reduction sauce. Our food is comfort food but it’s more like a Charleston, South Carolina, style of cooking.

How challenging is it to source locally in The Old-Line State?
We can get our cheese, our milk, our eggs, our chicken, our beef, and our wine, all right here. It’s all in Harford County within a 10-mile radius. I’ve traveled the country, from Texas to Chicago, and I’ve never been in a place where, from seafood to meat, you can get everything in one place.

How did you decide to become a chef?
My dad worked in radio his whole life, and I thought I’d follow in his footsteps, then my dad got sick, and my brother got custody of me at 15. My brother was waiting tables at Adriatico in Rehoboth Beach. I had to get a job, so I started bussing tables. My brother paid for me to go to The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College in Philadelphia.

Like so many chefs, you have a few tattoos. Can you tell me about one that matters to you most?
I have an Anthony Bourdain portrait on my back. Like me, he came from nothing and worked his way up. He impacted so many people. That’s what it’s all about for me. There’s nothing better than hearing someone say, “This is the best meal I’ve ever had.”