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The Frugal Forager: The Local offers offers fare, charm of its Old World models

Sunday, August 26, 2012
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The Local Pub and Teahouse is the local pub for the lucky people on the west side of Saratoga. Like its cousins in England and Ireland, “the local” bears the affectionate name for a nearby pub, a place to gather, meet friends and drink beer.

The Local offers sandwiches, burgers, salads, tea and accompanying sandwiches (think cucumber and cream cheese) and what they call traditional fare, specialities from the U.K., like shepherd’s pie and bangers and mash. The restaurant is very beer-centric, and during our lunchtime visit folks were enjoying pints in varying shades from amber to dark. Weekly dinner specials include fish tacos, so you can see they’re flexible about the pub theme.

Enter on the Beekman Street side, and you’ll find yourself in a small, welcoming wood-paneled room. If it’s not dinnertime, you can seat yourself, which is what JoAnn and I did, choosing a table under the dart boards. The heavy wooden chairs are on casters, making them easy to move out of the way when it’s time for darts. The chairs that had backs were comfortable, but I suspect the ones without are not so much.

The Local Pub and Teahouse

WHERE: 142 Grand Ave., Saratoga Springs. 587-7256, www.thelocalpubandteahouse.com

WHEN: Kitchen open 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Friday; 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

HOW MUCH: $43.45, including two soft drinks, tax and tip

MORE INFO: Children’s menu. No reservations accepted. Fully wheelchair accessible. Credit cards: Visa, American Express, Discover.

Focal point

A long chestnut bar that seats up to 18 is the focal point of the room, across from the cut-stone fireplace, with a long pub table that can seat a really large group nearby. There are historic photos of Saratoga’s West Side and notorious figures from its past on the walls. The beer menu changes constantly, and if you’re lucky, there’s room in the “Mug Club” for you to join; more than two hundred personal mugs hang over the bar. It’s friendly, clubby even, but can be a bit loud, just so you know.

We started with fried pickles accompanied by wasabi cucumber dipping sauce ($8). JoAnn gave them a thumbs-up because they weren’t greasy and the batter was delicious. When I discovered that the pickle spear slipped easily out of the batter crust, I just ate the batter shell because what I had left was hot pickles. They may very well be the acme of fried pickles, but I’d pass on them next time.

On the advice of another friend, JoAnn tried the fish and chips ($12), a mahogany plank of batter-covered fish that spanned the plate and then some. Inside batter coating, the fish fell into fresh-tasting white chunky flakes. The fish was delicate, light; the batter ethereal within, crunchy without. You can easily eat the whole piece in one sitting. I helped.

JoAnn liked the coleslaw too, saying it tasted like “fresh vegetables shredded up, in a very light dressing.” In fact, each vegetable’s flavor was discernible, she said. The unsweetened herbal iced tea ($2) with lemon was excellent. “I can taste the spearmint,” she said, approvingly.

I ordered the banger butty ($9). (A banger is a plump British sausage; a butty is a sandwich.) The Local serves their sliced bangers on hunks of toasted baguette with fried onions and gravy on the side. I pulled out a slice of sweet and juicy sausage and picked at the golden sautéed onions. It was very good, and I would have finished at least half, but I had poutine.

Another fine mess

Poutine, another recommendation, is a French-Canadian specialty, roughly translated as “mushy mess.” Purists insist on lard-fried french fries and real cheese curds topped with brown gravy. Luckily, The Local does not serve purists. Their lovely hand-cut fries in their skins are topped with shredded cheddar cheese and commercial-style but tasty gravy. They look like, and are, something you should never, ever eat unless you’ve thrown in the towel on weight loss forever. They’re available as a starter for $8, or you can turn your side of fries into poutine for an extra $2.

The first hot, crisp fries I pulled gingerly from the mound trailed some shreds of cheese. Then I tried some with dots of gravy and by then the cheese had melted, so I had a few with that. Then some with a little bit of both, but by this time, as JoAnn said, they’d become something else completely. “Comfort food,” she said, after trying a few. “Potatoes and gravy. Sunday dinner.”

Now there were no more plain fries, everything sank into a, well, mess. It was astonishing how good the mess was, though, and how easily they started going down. Your doctor will not recommend these. I do, but once a year, tops.

I went back to the banger butty and addressed the sandwich again. I liked the chewy French bread, and indeed the side of gravy was the same as on the poutine, but I was not about to pour gravy over and eat the result because the poutine had done me in. I took it home, and had it the next day.

Sleek appearance

A word about the building — as the home of the Phinney Design Group it’s a new, green, mixed-use building that isn’t out of proportion with the single- and two–family homes on Grand Avenue. It doesn’t scream pub; in fact, the stone facade and siding look modern and the large fan-shaped windows keep The Local bright in the daytime, though it must be cozy at night and in winter.

There are tables outside on Grand Street and a pub garden with bistro tables and Adirondack chairs around the back, but although the building is sleek and a handsome, sensible addition to the neighborhood, The Local has all the sensibilities of a pub, and you know it as soon as you walk in. Which you should do, soon. Lucky Saratoga West Side, with its local Local.

 
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