First Look: Local Three Kitchen & Bar

The former Joel space abides with Chris Hall and friends

Joel Antunes is one of the stellar chefs who have fled our city searching out more appreciative, wealthier diners in the last few years. He left behind a beautiful dining room at his eponymous Joel Brasserie. Inevitably, anyone who enters the space — now Local Three (3290 Northside Parkway, 404-968-2700, www.localthree.com) — is going to recall Joel's widely acclaimed French cooking.

I, apparently alone in America, experienced quite inconsistent dining at Joel. So, unlike some friends, my initial entry into this new restaurant wasn't like crossing the threshold of a mausoleum. Instead, I immediately perked up at the sight of a painting of Elvis on black velvet and similar kitsch classics, (mysteriously) including homage to the film The Big Lebowski.

The three new owners — thus "Local Three" — are chef Chris Hall, Todd Mussman and Ryan Turner. The latter two operate the stellar deli-cum-bistro Muss & Turner's, and they have brought their sustainability ethic and casual style to this new space. The dining room, as I recollect the original, has been opened and warmed up with the art and some judiciously used natural wood. Check out the salt and pepper shakers. Somebody's collection must have been acquired. Yeah, it sounds weird — kitschified Joel — but it works.

Hall's resume includes stints at 4th & Swift and Canoe. He's produced a menu that is heavy on comfort but with plenty of inspiration. The restaurant had only been open a week when we visited, but every dish we sampled was terrific.

The menu has a section of specials from which I ordered my appetizer — house-made fazzoletti, which is "little handkerchiefs" of pasta in triangular shape. They were plated with bits of a spicy sausage, Calabrian peppers, white beans, slices of Parmesan and Lacinato (or black kale). I'm tempted to bring out a list of adjectives, but I think you can deduce the pleasing flavors and textures on your own.

I actually made something of a mistake in ordering this dish with my must-have entrée — cassoulet with duck confit. Both dishes featured white beans and sausage. But I survived quite easily. The dish was all a good cassoulet should be, although it had one deviation. It did not have the usual breadcrumb crust. I'm not complaining because I sure as hell didn't need the extra calories and the stewed beans were quite thick enough without stirring in a crust.

Wayne started with "A Tribute to Grandma." Actually, it was my mother who fed me this: tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. I don't think Mama's Campbell soup was made with San Marzano tomatoes. And I suspect the cheese was something like Kraft Singles. Actually, though, Hall makes his sandwich with American cheese, too. You should stare at Elvis while eating this and maybe ask for peanut butter and bacon.

For his entrée, Wayne chose a brioche-crusted cod filet, served sliced over roasted cauliflower, capers and almonds with a pretty straightforward romesco, the popular Catalan sauce served with fish. Honestly, I didn't get to taste much of it, due to Wayne's high-speed, knife-and-fork juggling. But I want more.

We had one problem. Finding parking in the development that houses Local Three was totally confusing. And after we parked, we couldn't find the restaurant. The concierge at the neighboring building said he had never heard of it. We complained pretty angrily when we finally got inside. The staff, which was undoubtedly sick of hearing this, was apologetic, as was Hall, who comped our two desserts, both of which were overpayment for our irritation. A float featuring passion fruit and coconut ice cream would shut anyone up. Ditto for apple crisp made with fresh apples cooked to perfect texture.

Anyway, park in the building labeled "The Forum." The signage should be improved by now. Oh, and ask for Myk as your server. He was perfect.

Hurry back, y'all

Ryan Stewart has returned to rule the kitchen at the Glenwood in East Atlanta Village, and you should hurry back. The food is once again robustly delicious.

I started with a plate — an enormous plate suitable for four — of freshly fried pork skins. Drag them through the hot sauce or vinegar (but avoid the blue cheese dressing). Wayne ordered a Portuguese sampler of oyster escabèche, brandade fritters, a piquillo pepper grilled and stuffed with goat cheese and seared squid flavored with saffron. The savory four arrived in a bento box!

For entrées, Wayne chose venison stew and I ordered rabbit prepared three different ways. Wayne unpleasantly named our meal "Bambi and Thumper," and I'm pleased to say they both tasted less sugary-sweet than their cartoon incarnations might suggest.

Dessert was a couple scoops of ice cream and another gigantic plate, this time of four huge beignets powdered snowy-white with sugar and stuffed with cooked apples. We ate every calorific bite.

Yes, Stewart is the husband of Besha Rodell, CL's Food & Drink editor. She didn't know I was visiting, etc. ...

I lunched at Hobnob last Friday. I passed on my usual lamb burger and ordered a stromboli special that was quite satisfying. ...

Finally hit the new Flip Burger Boutique in Buckhead. Say no to the flavorless beets and the osso buco burger. The latter is a disc of veal meatloaf completely overpowered by "catsup." There's plenty else of interest on the menu. Carry money.

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