BELLINGHAM - A friend recently remarked that the age of fine dining has ended, and we are now in the age of the brewpub.
My mental survey of the dining scene over the last few years makes it hard to disagree. Since the closure of Nimbus in 2011, the fine dining casualties have included Flats and Prospect Street Café. Other attempts at establishing newer fine-dining venues failed before the restaurants really had a chance to earn a reputation.
While we still have some higher-priced restaurants in town, none of them thrill my palate as some of the departed places used to do. Maybe that says more about my palate than it does about the restaurants. I'd be interested in hearing your opinions.
In any event, the pub-style restaurant centered on locally brewed craft beers now seems to be where the action is, and The Local downtown is a good example of the genre. It features the beverages produced at Ferndale's Menace Brewing, owned by the same people who launched The Local last fall. Other local and regional craft beers are also available on tap. On the day we visited, there were 14 beer choices.
If you prefer wine, you can still go there with your beer-swilling friends. The Local also provides a wine-by-the-glass selection that included four whites, a rose and five reds on our most recent visit.
The dinner selections top out at about $14, featuring generally small but sophisticated plates to pair with the intensely flavored brews. Examples: lamb sausage with couscous, $14; lemongrass shrimp with glass noodle salad, $11; roasted pork bellies with cider-braised red cabbage and polenta, $12.
We dined for lunch recently and were more than pleased with our selections. A Reuben sandwich, $10, ranked at or near the top of the list of local Reubens I have tried, with top-quality corned beef chunks on marbled rye bread. A Cuban sandwich, $10, was juicy and delightful, with tangy pickles and fiery beer mustard sauce to set off the pork, ham and Swiss cheese. Both came with some well-executed house-made fries.
We especially enjoyed the soup of the day, which for us meant potato, pepper and ham chowder. It was a balanced blend of flavors with big, tender ham chunks, and went well with the Bellingham-brewed Kulshan porter in my glass.
No bonus points for décor and ambience, but no penalty deductions either.
The Local has a decent chance to establish a regular clientele in a good downtown location despite the brisk competition in its category.
-- Address: 1427 Railroad Ave., Bellingham
-- Phone: 360-306-3731
-- Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday
-- Price range: To about $14.
Reach John Stark at 360-715-2274 or email@example.com .