Though she recently opened new breakfast-and-lunch-only spot Rosemont a few doors down from Local, chef/owner Tracy Miller’s original restaurant hasn’t changed much since debuting in Deep Ellum’s historic Boyd Hotel in 2003. Local still has a lounge-like vibe that feels downtown cool. Miller’s cooking was and still is an exercise in delicious simplicity. But over the past nine years, the Dallas dining scene has changed. Farm to fork is de rigueur. Glam has been replaced by rustic decor. Chefs are daring diners with organ meats and oddities from the sea. In its own steadfast way, Local seems a bit dated. That is, it did until we revisited it recently and remembered why it’s one of the city’s best restaurants. On our last visit, we arrived early to hang out in the sleek lounge area, sipping Local’s signature Champagne drink dotted with a ball of rosemary grapefruit sorbet. Once seated, we surveyed what Miller refers to as a Modern American menu. We found nothing revelatory or challenging, not that it mattered.
Soon we were swooning over appetizers such as ahi tuna tartare with English cucumber slaw, pan-seared Maine lobster cakes, and seared Hudson Valley foie gras atop mini house-made Texas toast and a swirl of Madeira-vanilla bean syrup. A couple of entrée choices felt a bit heavy-handed. The juicy tenderloin bucked the trend of flavorless grass-fed beef. But the Tawny port balsamic finish was a bit too sweet. Likewise, a side of thyme-scented wild mushrooms overwhelmed a lovely rosemary-and-garlic-rubbed lamb loin. Better were the seared scallops, a sometimes yawn-inducing dish that, in Miller’s expert hands, perfectly cooked and accented with a citrus butter glaze, blew us away. The dish is indicative of Local’s enduring charm: stylish, simple, and effortless.—Todd Johnson