The Local is a restaurant that lives up to its name. Their chefs have served Charlottesville diners contemporary American fare since 2008. The Local’s dishes celebrate local products, highlighting ingredients from nearby farms, butchers and distributors. It’s worth the moderate expense to taste their food and unwind in their cozy space — the experience will ground you in the flavors and character of Central Virginia.
The Local is nestled in the heart of Charlottesville’s Belmont neighborhood on Hinton Avenue — a 10-minute drive from central Grounds. They serve dinner from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Diners can make a reservation with the OpenTable widget on their website.
The Local was already buzzing when my date and I arrived early Friday evening. A variety of patrons made themselves comfortable inside, from laughing groups of friends to rehearsal dinner guests. The scene gave me the impression that The Local is a favorite amongst Charlottesville residents for social outings, romantic nights and special events alike.
Plain wooden tables lined weathered brick walls. Lanterns hovering above the bar cast a soft, amber glow over the dining room. Textured wall art and new-age funk beats added playful, modern touches to the scene. I was charmed by the homey elegance of the place, and I looked forward to the continued sensory experience of tasting our dishes.
The chefs spotlight the restaurant’s local food partners on their menu, manifesting their mission to live locally and support local entities. Menu items feature fresh ingredients like Appalachia Star mixed greens, Caromont Farm goat cheese and River Oak Farms chicken. Their menu also designates several dishes that can be prepared gluten-free and vegan.
We started our meal with two appetizers — The New Frontier bison empanadas and the fried cauliflower and brussels sprouts. The empanada was a lovely melt of meat, cheese, sauce and pastry. The goat cheese crumble and bright salsa complemented the gamey bison, and the arugula underlay added freshness to each bite.
Our second appetizer arrived minutes later — a plate piled on with crispy cauliflower and brussels sprouts. The light fry on the vegetables brought a nice crunch to our first course. The spiced batter found its way into the crevices of the cauliflower pieces, seasoning them more thoroughly than the sprouts. A creamy sriracha aioli coated the bottom of the plate, but to my dismay, there wasn’t enough of the aioli to drench all of the vegetable pieces.
For dinner, we ordered the Buffalo Creek Beef short ribs and the truffled mushroom ragout. Our waitress informed us that those happened to be their two most popular entrées, which was a happy surprise.
The short ribs were tender, falling apart on the tines of my fork. An aromatic red wine jus doused the dish in savory glory. Caramelized carrots and rich mashed potatoes rounded out the hearty plate of food.
The mushroom ragout, a twist on the traditionally meaty stew, delivered my favorite bite of the night. A delicious truffle aroma filled the air when the bowl arrived at our table. The fettucini was thick and doughy — it seemed to melt in my mouth — and was tossed with velvety parmesan and robust, earthy mushrooms. The dish was a simple one that unexpectedly overwhelmed my senses.
For dessert, we embraced our inner kid and ordered the brownie sundae. Though it was perhaps the most unoriginal dessert selection, it did not disappoint. Peanut butter added a nutty goodness to the brownie. House-made vanilla ice cream dripped down the sides. Pillowy, semi-sweet whipped cream speckled with vanilla bean topped the sundae. The components oozed together for a decadent end to the meal.
After we scraped our dessert plate clean, we sat back in our chairs, delightfully stuffed. I enjoyed our visit to The Local. The satisfying, organic flavors and the intimate ambiance acquainted us with the spirit of Charlottesville. We walked out of the restaurant feeling like locals — pun intended.
The Local delivers fairly upscale dining at a reasonable price. Our dishes averaged $14 each, which I thought was a bargain for the quality and quantity of food we received. The Local is the perfect spot to indulge on occasion with family, friends and partners without breaking the bank.
The Local is also available as a venue for celebratory dinners. They boast several private spaces above their downstairs dining room. For anyone looking for a venue over graduation weekend, note that they are already booking reservations.