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Review: Local Three

At Chris Hall and Co.'s new Northside eatery, the food abides

Sometimes, there's a restaurant, well, it's the restaurant for its time and place. It fits right in there. And that's Local Three. Local Three, in Atlanta. Sometimes there's a restaurant, sometimes, there's a restaurant. Well, I lost my train of thought here.

Ahem.

Through a driveway labyrinth, into a parking deck, up a few flights, into the elevator, down to the lobby, and through some office/condo hallways, there's an obscure wooden door marked "Local Three." It's a restaurant off a hallway that also houses the restrooms for the lobby of an office and condo building. Which means you're never going to find it if you aren't looking for it. In fact, you might not find it even if you are looking for it. It's a destination.

Through the door, before you even get to the dining room, you walk through another hallway that doubles as a shrine to the Dude from The Big Lebowski. The Dude as Jesus at the last supper. The Dude drinking a White Russian, painted on a velvet background. For chef Chris Hall and the other Local Three owners, it's obvious that, you know, the Dude abides.

If everything I've said so far makes no sense to you at all, well, not to fret. This is a restaurant with owners who love a movie so much, they're willing to confuse their clientele just a little. If nothing else, the theme gives Local Three humor and personality from the outset.

The highly designed dining room is tribute to a number of influences. Rough-hewn boards cover the walls, reminiscent not of a barn, but of a table you might find in Martha Stewart's house, made from wood salvaged from a barn's demolition. Various pig art pops up here and there, making clear the kitchen's favored protein, and huge canvas shades on the lights add to the country-chic atmosphere.

This ain't Joël. In fact, on my initial visit, I almost forgot the location's history as the most recent of Atlanta's true fine dining restaurants to close. But it was brunch, and Local Three's brunch custom is to invite diners into the kitchen to take their food directly from the cooks. It's an all-you-can-eat type of deal; a sort of buffet 2.0 where food is cooked to order and the bacon is never-ending. But the real star is the kitchen, that huge, sleek, gleaming silver kitchen that chef Joël Antunes is rumored to have spent upward of a million dollars on constructing. My guess is that the walk-through-the-kitchen brunch plan was hatched in part because the new owners didn't want to deny the public the chance to gawk at the restaurant's most magnificent aspect. And as you grab your grits and eggs and perfectly pan-seared trout, it feels a little sacrilegious to be strolling through the back-of-house that was imagined with the lofty ideals of an old-school chef — a place where only the most serious cooks in their starched white jackets would set foot, a place where no one would enter who wasn't ready with a "Yes, Chef!" on the tip of his tongue.

But this is how the times have changed. Dining, even expensive dining (and Local Three is no bargain basement) is casual enough that you invite the customers into the kitchen to pick up their own food. Local Three's owners are masters of casual. Todd Mussman and Ryan Turner were visionaries of a sort. When they retooled their Smyrna deli (Muss & Turner's) into a neighborhood bistro, they banked on low-key, high-quality dining long before it was an established trend. And chef and co-owner Hall is having a lot of fun with a menu that's the very opposite of stuffy and formal.

To wit: The charcuterie board is dubbed the Notorious P.I.G. and offers house-made Slim Jim, bologna and hot dogs. In fact, the hot dogs are the star of the plate, busting with juicy pop, smack and smoke.

It's an interesting idea — taking the lowbrow aesthetic currently in favor (burger anyone?) and translating it to the fine dining realm. But that's what Local Three is all about. Not only is there a version of the White Russian on the cocktail menu, it's a version made with non-dairy creamer.

Hall does get beyond his affection for philistine flavors, and reaches true elegance. The best dish in the house is an appetizer of lamb shoulder over spiced lentils, the lamb funky and tender, the lentils ramped up with a mess of ginger and garlic, enough to leave a pleasant burn at the end of each bite. The cooling comfort of yogurt brings the dish together.

The chef also has a way with vegetables: A pile of roasted cauliflower and golden raisins was compelling enough to have me practically ignore the huge diver scallops on the plate. A side of "crispy Brussels sprouts" wore their title well, the soft hearts of the vegetables encased in a halo of crackling, shattery leaves.

The one major failing I encountered was the lobster's alkaline flavor on an appetizer of gnocchi — the butter-poached claws tasted as though they'd been poached in aspirin instead. It's a shame, because on this particular menu even lobster over gnocchi counts as a lighter dish. It's clear Hall and his partners are unabashedly fat-friendly and meat-centric, so there's a heaviness that pervades. I loved the appetizer of fried sardines over apple and fennel slaw, the low-tide tang seeping down to create a kind of fishy dressing. But the dish didn't need the smattering of bacon lardons in the slaw, which left the freshness, snap and simplicity compromised. It'll be interesting to see what spring brings to this menu. My hope is for a lighter touch and some genuinely fresh-tasting dishes.

I worried when Local Three's location was first announced that Joël's former digs would do a disservice to this particular enterprise, tucked as it is out of sight off of Northside Parkway. Thus far, it doesn't seem to be a problem — the restaurant has been consistently packed. But this is a place to watch over the long term as a harbinger of good or bad news for the business as a whole. Can a pricey destination restaurant still survive? Is personality, sense of place, and a casual vibe enough to combat the larger economic trends? Does a lowbrow aesthetic translate to a charcuterie plate and a grand evening out?

I hope the crowds keep coming, because Local Three will be a key indicator of the health of our dining scene in Atlanta going forward.

Dude. Am I wrong?



More By This Writer

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===Fado Irish Pub & Restaurant=== Tue., March 13, 7 p.m. Bushmills Whiskey Tasting. Fadó and radio host Rich Sullivan of 92.9 davefm are hosting a whiskey tasting. $39.95 covers a tasting of five whiskeys and six dishes. Master of Whisky Kevin Mulcahy of Diageo will be on hand to lead guests through the tasting and explain each whiskey to attendees. 20 percent of the proceeds from the evening will be donated to St. Baldrick’s Foundation. ===Details===

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[http://clatl.com/atlanta/double-zero-napoletana/Location?oid=3432475|===__Double Zero Napoletana__=== ]Tues., March 13, 5-10 p.m. __Supper Club at Double Zero Napoletana.__ Treat your taste buds to a trip to Southern Italy at Double Zero Napoletana on Tuesday, March 13, 2012 as it hosts the Atlanta Community Food Bank’s Supper Club dining event. The menu features pizza, fresh pasta and seafood, as well as Antipasti and Sfizi, handmade pastries, and gelato. ===__Details__===

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[http://clatl.com/atlanta/meehans-public-house/Location?oid=1295158|===__Meehan's Public House__===] Thurs., March 15, 7:30 p.m. Johnny Cash Dinner. Walk the line with Meehan’s Public House in Sandy Springs and Atlanta Ballet for a dinner in celebration of Johnny Cash. Meehan’s Executive Chef Val Domingo has prepared a full menu of Cash-inspired dishes. The five-course spread with beer pairings costs $47 per guest. ===__Details__==="
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Article

Monday March 12, 2012 02:31 pm EDT

  • James Camp
  • Double Zero Napoletana

Fado Irish Pub & Restaurant Tue., March 13, 7 p.m. Bushmills Whiskey Tasting. Fadó and radio host Rich Sullivan of 92.9 davefm are hosting a whiskey tasting. $39.95 covers a tasting of five whiskeys and six dishes. Master of Whisky Kevin Mulcahy of Diageo will be on hand to lead guests through the tasting and explain each whiskey to attendees. 20...

| more...
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*wikimedia commons
*He stank
What most Tar Heel fans thought would be an easy passage to the ACC championship game proved a little more difficult on Saturday afternoon. With Carolina forward John Henson out with a sprained wrist and his replacement, James Michael McAdoo in foul trouble very early in the game, NC State looked poised to dash everyone's hopes for a Duke UNC ACC championship (if Duke beats FSU in the second semifinal game today, that is - at half time it's looking far from guaranteed with FSU up 33-31). State had a lead as large as 7 points early in the second half, but Carolina came back to tie it up. It stayed that way right down to the buzzer, with UNC up by 2 with 1.2 seconds left. State just couldn't pull off that miracle. UNC won 69-67 

See? I can write like a sportswriter. 

But just because I can write like a sportswriter doesn't mean I want to. What I really want to say is, GODDAMN THAT WAS A CLOSE AND EXCITING FUCKING GAME. Also, Ramses the Ram is very, very stinky. He did a lot of his dancing right beside me, seeing as I'm at the end of press row right next to the UNC band, and by the end of the game that ram stank. 

Here's the thing: for a team with national championship hype, NC State shouldn't have given UNC that much trouble, even with one of their star players out. On the up side, State's performance proves definitively to me that they deserve a place in the NCAA tournament, which their defeat of Virginia on Friday is widely thought to have earned them. 

UNC Coach Roy Williams agrees that NC State ought to be in the tournament. At the post-game press conference he said "If I was on the NCAA tournament committee I'd fight very hard for NC State to be in the tournament. There's no doubt in my mind they're one of the best 68 teams in the country." He also refused to answer any questions before his players, Kendall Marshall and Tyler Zeller, had been addressed. "We need to get them back in the shower," he said. "They smell bad up here."

I'd love to stick around and see the end of this Duke FSU game, but I've got beer to drink! See ya tomorrow for the championship game."
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*[http://clatl.com/atlanta/ImageArchives?by=1290445|wikimedia commons]
*He stank
What most Tar Heel fans thought would be an easy passage to the ACC championship game proved a little more difficult on Saturday afternoon. With Carolina forward John Henson out with a sprained wrist and his replacement, James Michael McAdoo in foul trouble very early in the game, NC State looked poised to dash everyone's hopes for a Duke UNC ACC championship (if Duke beats FSU in the second semifinal game today, that is - at half time it's looking far from guaranteed with FSU up 33-31). State had a lead as large as 7 points early in the second half, but Carolina came back to tie it up. It stayed that way right down to the buzzer, with UNC up by 2 with 1.2 seconds left. State just couldn't pull off that miracle. UNC won 69-67 

See? I can write like a sportswriter. 

But just because I can write like a sportswriter doesn't mean I want to. What I really want to say is, GODDAMN THAT WAS A CLOSE AND EXCITING FUCKING GAME. Also, Ramses the Ram is very, very stinky. He did a lot of his dancing right beside me, seeing as I'm at the end of press row right next to the UNC band, and by the end of the game that ram stank. 

Here's the thing: for a team with national championship hype, NC State shouldn't have given UNC that much trouble, even with one of their star players out. On the up side, State's performance proves definitively to me that they deserve a place in the NCAA tournament, which their defeat of Virginia on Friday is widely thought to have earned them. 

UNC Coach Roy Williams agrees that NC State ought to be in the tournament. At the post-game press conference he said "If I was on the [NCAA tournament] committee I'd fight very hard for NC State to be in the tournament. There's no doubt in my mind they're one of the best 68 teams in the country." He also refused to answer any questions before his players, Kendall Marshall and Tyler Zeller, had been addressed. "We need to get them back in the shower," he said. "They smell bad up here."

I'd love to stick around and see the end of this Duke FSU game, but [http://clatl.com/omnivore/archives/2012/03/06/win-tickets-to-sweetwaters-brew-your-cask-off-and-try-xl-cls-40th-anniversary-ale|I've got beer to drink]! See ya tomorrow for the championship game."
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  string(2407) "       2012-03-10T21:24:00+00:00 ACC Tournament semifinals: UNC stinks (no really...they smell bad)   Besha Rodell 1224125 2012-03-10T21:24:00+00:00  
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*He stank
What most Tar Heel fans thought would be an easy passage to the ACC championship game proved a little more difficult on Saturday afternoon. With Carolina forward John Henson out with a sprained wrist and his replacement, James Michael McAdoo in foul trouble very early in the game, NC State looked poised to dash everyone's hopes for a Duke UNC ACC championship (if Duke beats FSU in the second semifinal game today, that is - at half time it's looking far from guaranteed with FSU up 33-31). State had a lead as large as 7 points early in the second half, but Carolina came back to tie it up. It stayed that way right down to the buzzer, with UNC up by 2 with 1.2 seconds left. State just couldn't pull off that miracle. UNC won 69-67 

See? I can write like a sportswriter. 

But just because I can write like a sportswriter doesn't mean I want to. What I really want to say is, GODDAMN THAT WAS A CLOSE AND EXCITING FUCKING GAME. Also, Ramses the Ram is very, very stinky. He did a lot of his dancing right beside me, seeing as I'm at the end of press row right next to the UNC band, and by the end of the game that ram stank. 

Here's the thing: for a team with national championship hype, NC State shouldn't have given UNC that much trouble, even with one of their star players out. On the up side, State's performance proves definitively to me that they deserve a place in the NCAA tournament, which their defeat of Virginia on Friday is widely thought to have earned them. 

UNC Coach Roy Williams agrees that NC State ought to be in the tournament. At the post-game press conference he said "If I was on the NCAA tournament committee I'd fight very hard for NC State to be in the tournament. There's no doubt in my mind they're one of the best 68 teams in the country." He also refused to answer any questions before his players, Kendall Marshall and Tyler Zeller, had been addressed. "We need to get them back in the shower," he said. "They smell bad up here."

I'd love to stick around and see the end of this Duke FSU game, but I've got beer to drink! See ya tomorrow for the championship game.             13066795 4986952                          ACC Tournament semifinals: UNC stinks (no really...they smell bad) "
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Saturday March 10, 2012 04:24 pm EST

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What most Tar Heel fans thought would be an easy passage to the ACC championship game proved a little more difficult on Saturday afternoon. With Carolina forward John Henson out with a sprained wrist and his replacement, James Michael McAdoo in foul trouble very early in the game, NC State looked poised to dash everyone's hopes for a Duke UNC ACC championship (if...

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Article

Thursday March 8, 2012 11:36 pm EST
NC State ended their first half against Boston College with a 3-pointer and then finished the game with TWO 3-pointers in a row to soundly beat BC 57-78. This made me happy. I've never understood what Boston College is doing in this conference in the first place. Also, NC State is such a great scrappy underdog team, I've always loved them. Here's how it works: NC State hates UNC and thinks... | more...
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On Tuesday, I asked folks to tell us what they'd like to see from CL over the next 40 years for a chance to win tickets to this weekend's Brew Your Cask Off event at Sweetwater. I got a ton of great responses, some hilarious and some thoughtful. But my favorite was this, by Steve Luxenberg:

Since newsprint is so passe, and the interwebs are dying, I'd like to see Creative Loafing be presented in a town-crier format, where the news, local restaurant reviews and "Are you Shaved?" are read aloud in public squares by folks sentenced for misdemeanors in Fulton and DeKalb.

Congrats, Steve! 

The runner up, who doesn't win anything but my undying love, is Nicole Wójcik, who sent an entry that included this:

In five years, will CL have a homepage compatible with my internet-ready Acuvue Konnectd contact lenses?
 
Later in life, will CL ensure that I'll be able to connect to Omnivore by simply gazing into my infant's eyes during a feeding?

That is so awesome."
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On Tuesday, [http://clatl.com/omnivore/archives/2012/03/06/win-tickets-to-sweetwaters-brew-your-cask-off-and-try-xl-cls-40th-anniversary-ale|I asked folks to tell us what they'd like to see from CL over the next 40 years for a chance to win tickets to this weekend's Brew Your Cask Off event at Sweetwater]. I got a ton of great responses, some hilarious and some thoughtful. But my favorite was this, by Steve Luxenberg:

Since newsprint is so passe, and the interwebs are dying, I'd like to see Creative Loafing be presented in a town-crier format, where the news, local restaurant reviews and "Are you Shaved?" are read aloud in public squares by folks sentenced for misdemeanors in Fulton and DeKalb.

Congrats, Steve! 

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In five years, will CL have a homepage compatible with my internet-ready Acuvue Konnectd contact lenses?
 
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That is so awesome."
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On Tuesday, I asked folks to tell us what they'd like to see from CL over the next 40 years for a chance to win tickets to this weekend's Brew Your Cask Off event at Sweetwater. I got a ton of great responses, some hilarious and some thoughtful. But my favorite was this, by Steve Luxenberg:

Since newsprint is so passe, and the interwebs are dying, I'd like to see Creative Loafing be presented in a town-crier format, where the news, local restaurant reviews and "Are you Shaved?" are read aloud in public squares by folks sentenced for misdemeanors in Fulton and DeKalb.

Congrats, Steve! 

The runner up, who doesn't win anything but my undying love, is Nicole Wójcik, who sent an entry that included this:

In five years, will CL have a homepage compatible with my internet-ready Acuvue Konnectd contact lenses?
 
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Article

Thursday March 8, 2012 04:21 pm EST

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On Tuesday, I asked folks to tell us what they'd like to see from CL over the next 40 years for a chance to win tickets to this weekend's Brew Your Cask Off event at Sweetwater. I got a ton of great responses, some hilarious and some thoughtful. But my favorite was this, by Steve Luxenberg:

Since newsprint is so passe, and the interwebs are dying, I'd like to see Creative...

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Also, I'm at the ACC Tournament. Woo-hoo!!"
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Also, [http://clatl.com/freshloaf/archives/2012/03/08/acc-tournament-gets-going-at-phillips-arenaam-i-the-only-person-in-atlanta-who-cares|I'm at the ACC Tournament]. Woo-hoo!!"
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Article

Thursday March 8, 2012 02:59 pm EST

A couple of things of note over on Fresh Loaf: Thomas Wheatley has a post up about the frightening U.S. Department of Agriculture's map of Atlanta's food deserts. That's deserts, not desserts, don't get your hopes up.

Also, I'm at the ACC Tournament. Woo-hoo!!

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