Local Kitchen and Bar

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If you’ve been curious to try fried green tomatoes ever since seeing the 1991 Kathy Bates’ movie of that name, Local Kitchen and Bar in Ferndale is the place where your curiosity could turn into a craving.

The titular tomato slices dipped in panko crumbs have a light, crispy texture. Complementing them are smears of three sauces: roasted red pepper purée, red-pepper jam and especially the goat cheese crème. This simple but pumped-up
appetizer sets the tone for a menu of familiar, well-crafted food.

“We’ve been pretty busy since we opened on Aug. 3,” said Chef Rick Halberg, a Culinary Institute of America graduate best known for his upscale restaurant Emily in Northville. It closed in 2006. Foodies brightened at news that Halberg would be starting anew in Ferndale. The chef said he and his business partner, Brian Siegel, were attracted to Ferndale’s booming dining and bar scene, which attracts a “young, hip, urban crowd.”

For his new, more casual restaurant, Halberg embraced the trend of diners wanting wholesome, healthy food that is locally sourced — “farm fresh” — as Americans of previous generations enjoyed.

“We have two or three local farmers we use for produce as much as possible,” said Halberg, who developed the recipes executed by Chef de Cuisine Ricky McCormick. Halberg himself cooks at Local Kitchen’s monthly wine or beer dinners in the upstairs banquet space. Among the craft cocktails, I’m told Standing Ovation is “awesome.”

Most items are selling well, Halberg said, citing popular choices like “our fantastic burger” on a challah bun, barbecued beef brisket sliders, chicken-fried chicken, and Emily and summer Panzanella salads.

I liked Pappardelle, a wide egg pasta that comes with Bolognese meat sauce or my choice with veggies. The bistro steak topped with crispy leeks was fine, but I loved every kernel of a side dish, Mexican Street Corn. The grilled fresh corn halves are coated with chili-lime mayo and queso cotija, a crumbly, salty cheese.

Supplementing the daily menu are shellfish and fin fish specials — “exceptionally fresh fish flown to Chicago and trucked here every day,” as Halberg explained.

Another special is the rotating pot pie.

“We sometimes serve a traditional one, like chicken pot pie, but usually the selections are inspired by the pot pie concept,” he said. Recently, the choice was braised beef with scalloped potatoes and gremoulade sauce (lemon rind, parsley and garlic). Also house-made and homey are Local Kitchen’s ice cream, complimentary mini-cornbread muffins and soda pop from its own syrups, currently blueberry and orange-honey ginger ale.

Another aspect of Halberg’s vision was creating a relaxing environment. He accompanied designer Ron Rhea and associates to find the “country farm” antique items that lend nostalgic warmth. In the main dining room, look for a wicker hay-reaper suspended overhead, a shelf of pillar candles topping antique scales and a display of farm implements above a cupboard on the back wall.

The high-ceilinged room has muted colors and stucco walls. A metallic bar is near the entrance. Striped dishcloths serve as napkins on bare wood tables. We poured water from a glass milk bottle at the large “community table,” where diners can mingle.

A glass front and some glass side walls show off a cozy, wood-burning fireplace on the spacious outdoor patio. Heading into fall, electric heaters are being installed to extend the dining, lounging, people-watching season. The same fireplace is enjoyed from comfy seats inside the restaurant. Two garage doors roll open to the outside seating area.

Local Kitchen opens daily at 5 p.m., the kitchen closing at 10 (11 on Friday and Saturday). Weekend brunch will start soon. Once running smoothly, Halberg will add lunch.

Reservations are accepted for parties of five and up, but tables may be held with a 30-minute call ahead.

LOCAL KITCHEN AND BAR
344 W. Nine Mile Road
Ferndale, MI 48220
(248) 291-5650
www.localkitchenandbar.com
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