What better home for local food champion and obsessively quality-oriented Local Roots Restaurant than in Grandin Village next to the Grandin Theatre?
None that I can think of.
Shortly after Diane Elliot purchased Local Roots from her son Rives in March of 2009, she and Chef Josh Smith began planning the eatery’s future. Though Elliot felt the old space next to the Grandin Road post office had given Local Roots a good start, the burgeoning business had simply outgrown it.
In keeping with their name and mission, Elliot and Smith used local vendors whenever possible including the architects, Rife and Wood Architects on Grandin Road, who helped them transform the former record store into an open, inviting yet functional space.
“The concept of local is more than just food,” Smith says. “It’s keeping the money in the local economy. These people have a sense of pride and ownership in it.”
While Smith’s concept of local goes beyond the food, his fare is what keeps people coming back. My dining companion and I were hooked by the food and attentive service at our first meal – a lunch that included a pimiento cheese sandwich and chanterelle mushroom pizza. The freshness of the ingredients and care given to the preparation is evident, and touches like the hand-cut fries and tasty homemade pickles that accompanied the sandwich made the simple lunch complete. Not only is the pimiento cheese made in house, but the cream cheese within it is as well.
Fresh, local mushrooms topped the crisp-crusted pizza that emerged hot and delicious from the wood-fired oven. Of course, I’m of the opinion that anything that’s had a turn in a wood-fired oven will taste good, and if it’s a pizza with chanterelles and fresh mozzarella, that’s all the better.
The new location – with a larger, yet streamlined and carefully planned kitchen – allows for more flexibility but also the ability to stay with a particular menu longer.
“We have the opportunity to change the menu as much or as little as we want,” says Smith. “Now that we’re able to buy our products in a larger quantity we can keep the menu consistent for a couple of weeks.”
Farmers and other food vendors are one of the key ingredients for Local Roots. Smith believes that the relationship begins with a visit to the farm or facility. It is there that you gain an understanding of how much effort goes into the end product – the food on the table.
“When you go see the care they put into growing the vegetables and raising the animals it makes you think twice about wasting it and you find a use for all of it,” says Smith.
This includes even using the cobs to make broth for the corn soup after the kernels have been removed. The result – probably the best corn soup I’ve ever had – tasted like corn, not like heavy cream, or cheese or anything that could interfere with the flavor of the main ingredient.
The rest of the dinner that followed the fantastic soup was fresh, artfully prepared food served by a knowledgeable, conscientious server. Though the restaurant was packed that Friday evening, each dish came to the table in a timely fashion and cooked as it should be. Every dish – from the heritage pork steak to the flaky tender cod coated in a wonderfully bready smelling beer batter and the braised vegetables with fresh-from Elliot’s-garden green beans – garnered compliments.
“I really, really believe in local food and serving food that’s grown and cooked and served with respect for the earth and for all involved,” says Elliot.