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Local is the name and aim

RESTAURANTS: SCENE SETTER

October 13, 2008|Jessica Gelt | Times Staff Writer

WITH global warming and an increased awareness of the risks associated with hormone- and antibiotic-laden meat and dairy, restaurant owners are looking for ways to go green. At the forefront of this effort is a growing desire among chefs to use sustainable, locally produced food. In this climate of change, it makes perfect sense that a restaurant would open up by the name of Local.

Owner Jason Michaud has worked at Vida and Traxx, among other places, and spent five years as the chef at Steven Arroyo's Cobras & Matadors. He says he was inspired to open Local after years of working in the restaurant business, in which "every single item was from Italy, or we were trying to source as much stuff from Spain as we could, and going through five cases of Pellegrino a week. The amount of waste is obscene, and I felt guilty."

Local's mandate is to use local organic ingredients "whenever possible." This last bit is the rub. "It's a tough learning curve," Michaud admits. "Every day the challenge is where to find the food and how to get it. It's very much like a treasure hunt." Still, by the time Local opened in what used to be an antiques store on Sunset in Silver Lake on Sept. 2, Michaud says he had made sure that most of his ingredients came from within a 300-mile radius.

He uses organic meat, cage-free eggs and free-range chicken. He spends time at farmers markets and buys organic produce from a downtown L.A. market. He also says he uses recyclable and biodegradable packaging, recycles his cooking oil and shuns bottled water in favor of the Natura system (an increasingly popular option at restaurants around town, including green-friendly Akasha and Neal Fraser's Grace).

The result of this across-the-board effort is a clean, modern-looking restaurant with a walk-up counter, an organic salad and soup bar, and a large, shady outdoor patio that fills up with locals noshing on American comfort food, often spiced up with French or Spanish flavors.

Right now, Michaud's favorite menu item is the Heritage pork sloppy Joe.

"We take a pig shoulder, slow-braise it, pull it with a spicy barbecue sauce and serve it with onion confit and queso fresco," he says. Other standout dishes include juicy port guava-glazed half chicken with apple slaw, and fresh striped bass on potato corn cakes. For breakfast, hearty egg dishes and scrambles are available, and there are plenty of vegan and vegetarian options, including a savory quinoa burger with golden beets and pine nuts.

The only thing you won't find on the menu is beef. "I'm 100% opposed to it because of the amount of methane cows produce," says Michaud. For him, making responsible choices is one of the joys of running a restaurant, as is the hope that he can make a difference in the larger culinary landscape. "People get caught up in the talking points of being green. I'm just trying to be part of the solution."

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jessica.gelt@latimes.com

Local, 2943 W. Sunset Blvd., L.A. 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Tue.-Sat., 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Sun.-Mon. Sandwiches, $11-$13; organic salad bar, $7.79 per pound; breakfast, $9-$13; main courses, $11-$15. (323) 662-4740, www.silverlakelocal.com.

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