You thought you wanted a drip coffee and a bagel, so why’d you walk away from the breakfast window clutching a mason jar of cold-pressed juice the color of a dolphin called “Seaspray,” and a pillowy brioche egg sandwich? You’ve been localized. The airy, well-appointed general store and deli at 1205 Abbot Kinney Blvd., which goes simply by the numbers of its bucolic Venice address, has that effect. The attention to detail means even everyday pleasures feel elaborate.
Breakfast is issued all day from Local’s sidewalk window (it’s not the only one in this hood, but easily the healthiest thanks to that rainbow row of raw juices). Inside the main shop, short order cooks mill around behind a long deli case constructing sandwiches like a truffled chevre grilled cheese and a pretty poached lobster roll. Scattered around the long dining room, locals peck at laptops from several communal wooden tables and vermilion metal chairs and respond to calls of “order up.” The straightforward delicatessen menu boasts small surprises. The sourdough is choice; the pickle slices zingy. The deli’s “Veg-out” sandwich is a cut-above your avocado-and-sprouts affair. Mandolin-thin curlicues of heirloom carrots are tossed with brilliant red radish slices and peppery arugula. The cool mess gets tossed with curry oil, like a fistful of marsala, and set atop a light schmear of hummus and slices of sunset-colored tomato.
Long before you get to the deli, the first thing that strikes you when entering Local is the pile of picture-perfect produce piled atop old-timey wheelbarrows in the center of the room. Prices are scrawled on a nearby chalkboard, naturally, and the selection is slight but well-done and big on rustic charm. (I’m almost positive I saw a father teach his 2-year-old son what “fennel” was standing there fumbling with a big idyllic bulb.) But the nicest touch here is the corner of the shop dedicated to provisions—oils and preserves and highend tidbits stacked on corrugated metal shelves. Whoever is stocking this place has an eye for the kind of brand names that become categories all their own. They don’t carry crackers; they have charcoal cracker biscuits made in Bath, England, that are squid-ink-black and taste sweet like freshly churned butter. Snapping up a box of these and ordering a gooey hunk of Morbier from the deli case seems a perfect lunch to ferry home. First tuck under your arm a jar of Brooklyn Brine Co’s spicy hot dill pickles or chipotle carrots.
Let’s be frank (which is, by the way, the brand of gourmet frankfurters the deli serves). Local is the kind of gourmand boutique that only some neighborhoods can support, but this strip seems handsomely served by the combination breakfast window, full-service deli and high-end pantry. What’s missing? This fall, Local is opening an oyster bar and pizza kitchen in back. When I stopped in last they were readying the white marble counter for late-night snacking. It’s almost as if they hope you’ll never leave.
Evan George is co-founder of the Hot Knives blog and co-author of the Hot Knives cookbooks, including the forthcoming Lust For Leaf published March 2013.
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