Thursday, July 9, 2015

Where We Eat: Local Public House & Provisions

The voice on my GPS was yelling, in its mechanical British accent, that I needed to turn north. That is, it insisted, the only logical way to get to my dinner destination, Local Public House & Provisions (The Local House) in San Antonio, FL. But I couldn't make the turn. I was frozen with fear. Normally at this intersection I turn south. South takes me towards the back entrance to Flatwoods, the University of South Florida, Ybor City, Highway 75, Bearrs Groves, all places that I frequent on a regular basis. I know what to expect when I make that turn. North? North was a whole other ballgame. Everything I'd heard about Morris Bridge north scared the sh** out of me. For instance, there was a guy at my auto shop who told me that Morris Bridge north takes you passed the lair of a metal carving dragon. That ghastly creature custom fits all who pass with a chastity belt. He also makes them do situps, in said chastity belt, until they perish. Ms. Crickens, a really skinny lady that lives in my apartment complex, told me that a ruthless fairy blocks Morris Bridge north. This fairy has the tendency to turn people into a termite infested mangrove tree. The guy who works next to me, Chad, tells me that on Morris Bridge north, about four miles beyond Cross Creek, the horizon turns white and cars have been known to fall off the face of the earth.

It took me 53 1/2 "What Would Christopher Columbus do's" before I made that turn.

What the hell is so fabulous about The Local House that someone would be willing to fight mythical creatures and risk a fall off the face of the Earth? Well, The Local House is "a grown up pub with great burgers, po-boys, salads and snacks made with all local ingredients." What's more is that The Local House is willing to serve this locally sourced food without the attitude. They cater to vegetarians and vegans and they aren't against substitutions. This is in stark contrast to some of the "local ingredient" restaurants on the south side (Tampa).

The Local House's menu is pretty sparse. It only offers about twenty food items. Yeah, I'm counting appetizers, salads, main courses and desserts when I say that. While that might turn off some, I'm okay with that. Give me a place that does less things better over one that does a million things mediocre any day. Of those twenty or so food items, we sampled six of them during our recent visit. Our list included the rice and beans, sweet potato chips, chips and salsa, french fries, the Underground Salad and the Fried Green Tomato BLT (minus the bacon). We took the BLT with a side salad and kumquat vinaigrette.

           The Chips and Salsa

The chips and salsa and sweet potato chips were the first two items that arrived at our table. The chips were served on a board alongside The Local House's freshly made kumquat salsa and beer cheese fondue. I loved the chips. They were dark in color (they looked more like pita chips than tortilla chips) and were not greasy at all. The chips were thick, twice the size of your typical Mexican restaurant, crispy and firm. This helped them hold up nicely to the pressures of my vigorous dipping. I was disappointed with the kumquat salsa. I was really hoping to be wowed, that the salsa would stand out versus some of my favorite store-bought salsas and I'd have no choice but to beg them for a container to take home. But I didn't get that. I felt fine leaving the half eaten salsa remnants on the table and not packing it up to take home. The beer cheese fondue was a hit amongst the cheese eaters at our table, especially Z-Bot. After the chips were gone, most people moved on to other things...not Z-Bot. She took out a spoon and started eating the cheese with it. She couldn't get enough.

             The Sweet Potato Chips

My favorite appetizer of the evening was the sweet potato chips. For an extra fee, these chips can be upgraded to be covered with gorgonzola and balsamic. We upgraded, although we got the cheese on the side. I loved that the chips were super thinly sliced and crisped to perfection. Like the chips and salsa, these guys were not super oily. But what made the dish was the balsamic drizzle. That added a nice little tang to the appetizer. With the cheese and balsamic added in, these chips come out to be about nine dollars and fifty cents. The Local House is definitely not cheap but when you are eating at a restaurant that uses only local ingredients, that is to be expected. These restaurants aren't privy to the cheaper wholesale prices that are offered by corporate companies that ship national meat, cheese, fruits and vegetables.

The Fried Green Tomato BLT (no bacon)

Hello my friend. Where have you been hiding all these years? This was a very popular sandwich at our table (five of them were ordered) for good reason. It was awesome. It all starts with the bread. The sandwich is served on a roll that comes from the Jamison B Breadhouse Bakes (in Ybor). The bread was crispy on the outside and soft and pillowy on the inside. It fell somewhere in the middle of the dense/light spectrum. Airy but not Wonder Bread, dense but not the sourdough I baked last summer.  The green tomato, courtesy of Green Acre Aquaponics , was nicely breaded and held up during the eating process. There is nothing worse than a breading that slides off mid-chew. The sandwich was a bit dry because it is served with no condiments (the horror?!). I counteracted that by dipping it into the kumquat vinaigrette that came along with my side salad. The dressing mixed with the tomato and bread made this a memorable sandwich. One of the best I've had in the Tampa region? It's too early to tell. Guess I'll have to go back a couple more times.  

                 Side Salad 

I left the restaurant patting myself on the back saying good call on the salad (sandwiches can also be served with a side of coleslaw, fries, fruit or sweet potato chips). Not only was the salad dressing a nice dipping accompaniment to the FGT-BLT but the vegetables themselves were absolutely divine. Crispy, juicy, crunchy, fresh. These were the adjectives that kept playing through my head as I savored each bite. You could just feel the difference between The Local House's salad and one that you get at a restaurant that doesn't source locally. Hell, you could feel the difference between The Local House's salad and the one I make in my kitchen.  

J-Fur ordered the Underground Salad which combined seasonal fruit, greens and goat cheese. Despite the fact that it was loaded with fruit, she felt that the salad needed to be just a bit sweeter. For our daughter, we got an order of rice and beans. She played with it more than she ate. The following day I ate the leftovers for lunch. Good, but not really special either. They were your typical rice and beans. 

Now that I know there aren't any dragons or fairies standing in my way and that I won't fall completely off the edge of the world, I will be paying San Antonio a few more visits. And when I do visit, you can be sure that Local Public House & Provisions will be my go to place for food.

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There is an intimacy to your meal at Local Public House & Provisions. You can't get any closer at a restaurant than a customer being two steps removed from the food producer. The fact that the vendor's name is printed right on the menu makes it feel even closer. There is no where for these local vendors to hide. The same intimacy exists in "Why Let It Go" by Telegraph Canyon. "Why Let it Go" is the first single from Telegraph Canyon's intensely personal new album You From Before. Singer/Songwriter Chris Johnson has put together a collection of songs about people and relationships he's been through. Not all are romantic, some only stuck around for a day or two, but the common theme is that most of these people are no longer in his life and they've all affected him in a huge way. The album is, at times, uncomfortable in its intimacy. The same intimacy exists between farmer and restaurant, food and customer when you eat a meal at Local Public House & Provisions.