Señor Lanky and I have been waiting for Local 44 with baited breath for months, every since Brendan “Spanky” Hartranft confirmed the rumor of its West Philly opening one Sunday brunch as we gobbled fried pickles at Memphis Taproom. I immediately signed up for the mailing list, I’ve checked the website obsessively, I’ve bike past slowly and looked in the windows. Finally. Finally, Local 44 has opening in my beloved neighborhood, West Philly. A visit was the first thing on my “To-Do” list when I returned to Philadelphia after the holidays.
I ordered the spinach croquettes and was surprised when they arrived – they were huge, and more closely resembled a latke, if latkes were made of mashed potatoes. The flavor was light, the inner texture creamy and the outer a contrasting extra crispy deep fried. Topped with a rich vegan cream and herb sauce, I gobbled them up. A good green garnish would have made them appear a little prettier on the plate. Since Local 44 is just as much about beer as food (if not more) I drank a perfectly crisp Bear Republic XP Pale Ale.
One of my favorite things about Memphis Taproom, and now Local 44, is their veggie and vegan options. The Oyster (Mushroom) ‘Po Boy intrigued me, and I wasn’t disappointed. I had forgotten that oyster mushrooms have such a dense, chewy texture and the deep fried breading added even more texture. Tomatoes, lettuce and some tasty sauce had me hooked. Unfortunately, after devouring the croquettes first, I had to leave most of the huge bread roll and hand-cut fries behind. Had I eaten the whole roll with the mushrooms, however, the sandwich would probably have been a bit too dry – maybe a nice juicy slaw instead of the shredded lettuce and a little more sauce?
Because everyone from the neighborhood seemed to be coming in that night, we were lucky enough to grab some seats at the bar with friends before it filled, and I enjoyed the Maredsous 6, a Belgian ale, and the Victory Hop Wallop, extra-hoppy on cask while I whiled away a wonderful night. It’s hard for a restaurant to live up to so much excitement and hype. If they continue to work out the food kinks and devote as much time to the food menu as the beer menu, Local 44 will become one of my staples.