Shari and I have wanted to try The Local Craft in Coral Gables for a couple of weeks now. Since it was Aly’s birthday, we decided to take her there to celebrate (and annoy her with taking pictures, analyzing every bite, etc.). We decided to splurge, ordering several appetizers, three entrees, and every dessert they had on the menu (a very, very good decision). The waitress was accommodating to all of our questions (aka — very patient), was interested in our feedback (she could sense Shari didn’t like the grouper cheeks, asked us about it, and then spoke to the Chef), and gave her opinions about the food.
Cheeseboard ($20) – a selection of 3 cheeses from about 7 options. We ordered the Tomme, Aged Cheddar, and Humboldt Fog Goat Cheese. It came with candied walnuts, and a savory jam. This was no ordinary, dinky cheese board. Each portion of cheese was huge. The Tomme, drizzled with honey and topped with pink peppercorns, was a hard, mild, salty cheese. The aged chedder, served on the rind, was perfectly crystallized, what every good, hard cheese aspires to be. The Humboldt Fog was a bleu-ish goat cheese, with a blue vein running through the middle, yet a lot milder than we expected. We ate every bite of the giant pieces and they were all equally delicious
Pork belly with pickled peaches (amazing) – the peaches were sweet, tangy from the apple cider pickling, fresh, and crunchy. The pork belly had the perfect crispy skin on top, almost caramelized. It contrasted pefectly with the melty, smoky fattiness and pull-apart meat on the bottom. We all wished the sides were seared like the top, but it was, overall, a great dish. Extra points for a great presentation.
House marinated olives with orange peel, red chili flakes, rosemary – is it strange to call an olive refreshing? Well, these were – not too salty, and the orange was an unexpected, but welcome, flavor.
In addition, the Chef sent out a taste of the Salt Cod Chicharon, which came with house made potato chips, as well as a lemon salt and parsley aioli. I don’t like any seafood aside from shrimp, but in the name of blogging, I tried a bite. It was a very interesting appetizer – I actually enjoyed it, but had to not mentally harp on the fact that what I was eating was the skin of a fish. We both agreed that it was not our favorite, however, we were both happy to try it.
For the main course, I ordered the shrimp and grits, which came with a confit of tomato and smoked hock broth. This dish was delicious. The grits were incredibly creamy, the hock broth was flavorful and bold, the shrimp were huge and filling. It was a very homestyle, comforting dish, that I would order again without a doubt. Shari ordered the “fish and chips,” made with fried grouper cheeks instead of cod. It was not her favorite. As someone who eats a decent amount of fish, Shari found the grouper cheeks to be extremely fishy and she left most of it on the plate. The batter, on the other hand, was perfectly crisp and the french fries (“chips”) were some of the best we’ve ever had. Golden brown, crunchy, not greasy. Aly ordered the roasted chicken thighs, which came in a bowl with dumplings, green olive, preserved lemon, and a fennel sausage and herb broth. I cannot speak for her taste buds, but what I tried of her dish was very good – the chicken was cooked beautifully, and again, this dish invoked all the good feelings that comfort food is supposed to.
Vanilla bean pana cotta with candied bacon. The pana cotta was perfectly set, with black specks of real vanilla bean throughout. The candied bacon was great, in theory, but lacked slightly in execution. It was also served with some kind of caramelized peanuts on the side, but someone let the caramel burn too long on the stove and it was not so tasty.
Chocolate Pot de Creme with roasted marshmallows, popcorn, and pineapple bits. Strange, yet delicious. The pot de creme resembled chocolate pudding, and the burnt marshmallows on top provided a nice, crunchy contrast to the rich, creamy chocolate.
The Local Craft Food & Drink is a breath of fresh air in the otherwise monotonous Miracle Mile. A spot with a warm atmosphere, minimalist approach to food, and damn good desserts, all at a great price, was much overdue. I’ve already recommended it to friends who promised to check it out, and we will be going back very soon. After all, we only barely put a dent in the extensive beer menu.
Shari’s side note: Right there, on their front-of-the-house window sill, was an herb garden. I watched the chef exit the kitchen, walk through the restaurant past the jersey-clad, screaming Heat fans watching the plasma TV hanging from the ceiling, directly to the window where he proceeded to tear off basil leaves. I immediately jumped out of my seat, camera in hand, and touched, sniffed, and oggled my way around the herbs. Kafir. freaking. lime. leaves. My dining companions, two of my best friends who know me well and love food, were slightly embarrassed at my excitement over a potted plant. I almost cried. It wasn’t the leaves themselves that brought such a wave of emotion, but the chef’s sheer appreciation of food to a point where he prominently displays the herbs in the front of the house like an expensive piece of art. To me, kafir lime leaves, mint, basil, tarragon, thyme, and rosemary are art. But to a normal person, they are plants which, at times, make a guest appearance in their salmon or mashed potatoes. By the end of the meal, I was so full and over-stuffed someone could have easily mounted me above their fireplace. But I ‘ve never been happier.
Stef’s side note: If you don’t like a lot of noise, don’t go there during a Heat game, or any game for that matter. There are two plasma TV’s and the volume was turned up VERY high. During commercials I couldn’t even hear myself crunch the crispy pork belly. There were also a lot of men drinking the Craft beers that The Local Craft has to offer (not necessarily a bad thing – beer, or lots of men). The Local doubles as a great, low-key bar to grab a beer and hang out. Just be prepared that when you’re coming for dinner, they will also have ESPN on blast. They are now also open for lunch.
<3, Stef & Shar