The food at Local 149 can described as uneven; this after multiple attempts, a couple of very good burgers, and a couple less than stellar. The people behind The Biltmore in Newton take on a similar vibe in the new Southie spot, a very ambitious gastro-pub of a menu, that isn’t always triumphant. At it’s best, the Local Cheese Burger is a delight; with grass-fed sirloin, cheddar, pickled green tomato and seaweed salt fries. Trust me, this is as normal as the menu gets, which isn’t to say I don’t appreciate at least reading the menu, the flavors are often presented as bold and unique, but my taste buds don’t always agree. The Patty Melt is less successful; two all-beef patties, sauerkraut, Muenster and 24 hour ketchup. Yeah, there’s a lot going on, individually the components work, but never fully unify to become the great burger they could be.
My first attempt with the Local Cheese Burger was solid, more than solid really, it has all the makings of a classic Pub burger all dolled up. The Grass-Fed beef was seasoned adequately, cooked a perfect medium-rare, and had all the juiciness a good burger should have. I liked the touch of the pickled green tomato and cheddar, but supporting acts in burgers are often that; lost in a cloud of beef and bun. The bun here being a toasted poppy seed, with enough crunch and interior softness to complement the burger. But on my second visit, the burger was vastly over-cooked, lacked the seasoning from the first go-around, and was missing the punch that made the previous experience worthwhile. Chalk that up to a relatively new restaurant with growing pains I suppose.
The Patty Melt I never loved. While I enjoyed the spin on the classic sandwich, I couldn’t understand the intent to serve the patties well-done, especially when they were much thicker than the thin, griddled variety they deserved to be. Too many competing flavors here; although the homemade 24-hour ketchup was superb, I wish it adorned the regular burger as well or at least came on the side with the fries. But alas, the fries came with regular old Heinz, a puzzling choice in my opinion. Those fries were also a minor let-down, although salted beautifully the promised seaweed flavor was missing, and they arrived less than crispy on both visits, and a bit greasier on trip number two. The addition of bacon is offered up three ways at Local 149; Cherry Wood smoked, Mangalista, and house-made Canadian Bacon. Both times the kitchen ran-out of at least one of the bacon, so I never actually got to try the Canadian. Both the Mangalista (described to us as the Kobe beef of bacon) and the Cherry Wood smoked had superb flavor, but both arrived chewy and raw in more than a few spots.
At its best, Local 149 serves up classic pub food with a pretty substantial twist, it’s ambitious and the flavors are there to match. But too often it’s frustrating, you’re promised a one-of-a-kind experience but the food can arrive less than ideal. Maybe they just need to work out the kinks; on a good day the house burger is one of the better examples of a cheap ($10) product way ahead of the field, focus on that experience and it’s certainly worth a visit. But end up there on a less than perfect day, and you’ll be disappointed in every sense of the word.
Overall Score: 84 (on a good day)
Overall Score: 74 (on a bad day)