By Ric Kolenda
Sept. 17, 2014. There’s a new concept at a familiar place on Howard Street. Nearly six years after taking over Char, owner Jean Borhman, General Manager Colton Lenz, and Assistant GM Alaina Walker are finally, according to Lenz, “making it our own.” With a new name—“The Local”—comes a new menu, fresh décor, live music and many other changes that live up to that moniker. Even more than before, The Local wants to be your local tavern. And if their grand opening Saturday was any indication, they have a good shot at making it so.
As you approach, the first thing you will notice is the new sign, fashioned by downtown neighbor Appalachian Signs from the last of a grand old white oak, formerly standing a mere mile or two down the road. Upon entering, you will be greeted by a friendly hostess, who will escort you to the redesigned dining room, complete with wall-length, locally crafted bench seats and tabletops. The large photographic prints on the wall represent local scenes, which culminate into a beautiful stage area, backed with locally sourced rustic barn wood. To the right you can see the newly functional pizza oven putting out lovely flatbreads and 12 inch pies, and a cozy lounge overseen by Tommy Lee’s mural of High Country legend Doc Watson.
As you peruse the new drink menu, you’ll notice that half of the 20 taps feature North Carolina craft brews and ciders, and on Thursdays you can enjoy them for a dollar off. Can’t decide with so many choices? Order a “halfy,” a new half-pint option to encourage experimentation. Or if you know what you like, go ahead and get a pint, or even a pitcher. You may also appreciate the new lighting in the bar area, offering a softer, contemporary feel for bar patrons.
When you need to nosh, you’ll be delighted to see that the expanded menu demonstrates the same commitment to lovingly crafted cuisine, but with more options, lower price points, and 70 to 75 percent local ingredients, according to Lenz. Start off with the Thai Beef Tidbits ($9.95), tender chunks of tasty sirloin, served with ripe fried plantains and sweet chili cream sauce; crispy Ashe County “Squeaky” Cheese Curds with chipotle ranch sauce ($5.95); and go ahead and add “The Best Brussels Sprouts Ever” ($5.95), which actually may live up the their lofty name. And who can forget the classic French-fried potato, here seen as golden-brown shoestrings topped with truffle oil and shaved Parmesan cheese—no catsup required ($4.95).
If for some reason you are still hungry after all that, choose from several flatbreads or pizza; the Margarita was particular lovely. Or maybe try a cross-cultural sandwich like a Carolina Bánh Mì ($7.55), a Na’an-Traditional Cuban ($7.95), or a Boone Philly ($9.95), 87.6 percent of which are served on local Stick Boy Bread Co. breads. Other items include three kinds of soft tacos, burgers on Stick Boy brioche and optional local beef, and lager-battered cod filets with shoestring “chips.”
And if you’re looking for something even more substantial, but that won’t bust your budget, entrees now run from $8-16, and include everything from a vegan, gluten-free Quinoa Bowl ($7.95) to the classic 10-ounce sirloin Steak and Frites ($15.95). And of course save some room for the Carolina Beignets with house-made Cheerwine syrup ($4.95).
Gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan? No problem! Always known for offering a good selection here, the new menu expands both dramatically. Even the pizzas and sandwiches can be gluten free now!
After dinner, check out a rack and play some Eight Ball on one of two gorgeous new billiards tables, while you keep an eye on your favorite team on one of two large-screens in the billiards room. Or wander out to the upgraded deck area, with beautifully restored wooden tabletops, for an after-dinner drink, a bit of fresh air and some people watching on the pedestrian walkway. Then stay for the music, planned at least weekly. The grand opening featured Simplified, a well-known regional band out of Charlotte that got folks onto the dance floor with their funky acoustic original material that reminded me a bit of Dave Matthews Band and, at times, even the Grateful Dead. They were described by band member Chris Sheridan as “a rock band with elements of reggae, funk, and acoustic roots.”
And there is more to encourage you to make The Local your Local. Enjoy five-dollar flatbreads for happy hour (4-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday), and daily food and drink specials. And those specials are made even more special by a nifty table stand that is lit from inside, great for those of us whose eyesight isn’t what it used to be, but push the button on the stand and the light turns red to indicate your need for service. That’s right, no more trying to catch the eye of your server or gesticulating wildly when you need more water. Now that’s a commitment to service!
To sum it up… local beers and ingredients, plus local arts and crafts, plus local music, equals a new local pub for anyone who appreciates all that the High Country has to offer.
The Local is located at 179 Howard Street in downtown Boone. For more information, click here or call 828-266-2179.