Dinner Delicacies at the New Local Foods

When Local Foods opened its first location, I worried about its proximity to my gym. It continues to be difficult not to give in to the temptation to reward myself with a truffle egg salad sandwich and seven-layer bar every time I have a good workout.

With the launch of a second Local Foods so close to my house, I'm just going to reconcile myself to the fact that I will be giving its owners a good portion of my paycheck on a regular basis.

The daytime menu offers many of the dishes that have come to be favorites at the West University location (e.g., the crispy chicken sandwich), as well as some new additions. What I'm most compelled by at the Upper Kirby branch? That would be the dinner plates.

I stopped in early one recent drizzly weekday evening to find the shiny new dining room surprisingly quite busy with early-bird diners. The open kitchen doesn't include a hearth, but you could have fooled me, given the light and warmth emanating from the new prep tables and the impressive rotisserie.

Although my server recommended the tilapia and I was smitten by the site sight of the half-roasted chicken, I ultimately chose the lamb after seeing a cook construct that dish for another patron.

The thick, juicy rectangles of lamb, shaved right off the bone, were slightly bloody and very supple. Although I had my choice of sauce (I went with the lemon au jus, a single act of deference to my server's suggestions), the wonderfully spiced lamb needed neither moisture nor additional flavoring.

Each dinner entrée comes with the choice of two warm sides. I skipped the potatoes and jasmine rice for an absolutely terrific vegan cauliflower gratin (Eric Sandler is right--cauliflower is the new brussels sprouts) and some deliciously soggy cooked greens with just a bit of a kick.

My lamb dinner plate was $20, and I think that's just about right, given the quality of preparation and portion sizes. I wonder, however, if plunking down an entire Andrew Jackson will dissuade other less spendthrift patrons; Local Foods might be well-advised to pull the world's oldest pricing trick and list their lamb at $18.99.

When it's less rainy and I'm in more company than just Siri, I will linger longer at the new Local Foods, especially since this location offers a full bar and a more grown-up vibe. (Somehow, knocking 'em back doesn't feel quite right at the West U branch, where at any given time multiple small children are running around.)

I might also request a double order of that cauliflower gratin.

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Joanna O'Leary