Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Local: Good Eats from Not-So-Far Away

These days I am really trying to eat as locally as possible. Before this season of our show started I resolved to bring in my lunch at least thrice a week so as to reduce the insane amount of packaging we go through for our daily lunch orders. Unfortunately, I can't say I've lived up to that goal. It seems that the last thing I want to do after getting home from work is pack a lunch for the next day. Le sigh. But fear not, I still manage to do my part by occasionally giving up my paid-for lunch for a thrown together melange of veggies from our kitchen at work and I get 90 percent of all my produce from the farmer's market (I just can't resist the baby brussel sprout bags at Trader Joe's, I just can't! They are so cute and easy to microwave. ok?!?!?!). Luckily, to make up for my slack in the lunch department, I can enjoy lovely local weeknight meals at the appropriately named Local restaurant in Silver Lake.

Local's shtick is that they used locally farmed, organic ingredients whenever possible and they use only recycled or completely biodegradable packaging. Hey, that sounds great! At Local, you order at the counter, get your number, and wait for your meals to be brought to you by the super friendly staff. Most of the seating is outdoors in a comfortable shaded patio. While you're waiting to order you can scope out the pretty awesome salad bar where the selection includes a handful of vegan-friendly prepared salads for 8 bucks per pound. On recent visits there has been a tasty looking wheatberry salad, a raw kale concoction, and a scrumptious edamame mix, among other choices.

Local's menu is definitely more suited to an omnivorous diet but there are more than a few vegan options, one of them being the quinoa burger. When I asked if the burger was vegan, the cashier informed me that arrowroot, not eggs, is used to bind the ingredients. Welllllll it turns out that arrowroot doesn't actually bind all that well. This quinoa creation is really more of a quinoa salad than a burger as the grains barely stick together, but that doesn't bother me too much. The quinoa still tastes great so who cares about semantics!

Most items on the menu come with your choice of french fries, spicy fries, or a side salad. I had the spicy fries on my first visit and found them way too salty to enjoy. Thinking the salt came from the spice mix, I ordered the regular fries on my next go around and found them to be insanely salty as well. It's too bad the seasoning was off because the fries were really good texture-wise.

The Local menu also boasted a Vegan Tempeh Sloppy Joe with Soy Mozzarella. I ordered the soy cheese on the side as I am generally not a fan of fake cheese. The Sloppy Joe was a divine mixture of tempeh, green peppers, onions (and other tasty veggies I am probably overlooking) in a delightfully tangy tomato sauce. While I was thoroughly enjoying my sammy, I noticed that the soy cheese didn't look like any of the brands of vegan cheese I have seen before. After asking the chef for more info on the soy cheese, I informed him that it was a brand that contains casein and is therefore not vegan. He was genuinely surprised and was very apologetic. When I last checked in with Local, they informed me that they were very disappointed to learn about the casein issue and are currently exploring new vegan cheese options. In the meantime, they no longer refer to the Sloppy Joe as vegan but they do instruct customers that the sandwich can be made vegan by asking for the cheese to be left off.

One thing that struck me as odd during my dining experiences at Local, is that you are presented with all these dishes made with awesome local, organic ingredients but yet the condiments provided are anything but. It is a little odd to be eating an organic burger and smothering it in Heinz ketchup which is not only completely mass produced but it contains high fructose corn syrup for pete's sake!

Local is a very bright and pleasant place for a great meal. While the restaurant definitely has a number of great vegan options, it is apparent that the chefs aren't exactly trained in all things vegan (otherwise they probably would have a more burger-y burger). Their mission also seems to be a bit inconsistent--I mean they could at least get the cheap organic ketchup from Trader Joe's or something! Regardless, I will be eating at Local on a regular basis as I want to support their efforts in getting people to eat food grown where they live and I need to satisfy the constant craving I have for that damn good Sloppy Joe.

2943 W. Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90026