This time last year, executive chef Leah Dubois was picking out mirrors for the ladies' bathroom at Local 149 in South Boston. Before that, she could be found running the kitchen at Grezzo, the former raw, vegan restaurant in the North End. It's been a big year for Local 149, including the addition of Pinky's Deli, an ongoing lunchtime pop-up. Eater spoke with Dubois about local reactions to the sometimes whimsical menu and what it's like to carry a six foot sandwich through Southie.
How much were you involved in the opening? It was quite a raw space when I signed on for the job, so it was all about designing bathrooms and going over the kitchen layout, meeting all the contractors and the guys from the neighborhood who were helping us build it. It was a really interesting and rewarding process: I felt really invested before we even had any food in the building.
What were some of those design decisions? We really wanted to utilize some local artists and local materials. I believe the ceiling we found in the basement, or used part of what we found to create the vanities in the bathroom, which was very cool. The artwork is from a local artist that our president is good friends with, the sinks in the bathroom I picked out. We just wanted something with a little bit of flair, something memorable but not too crazy. Lots of mirrors in the ladies' room, that was definitely all me.
Were there any major delays? There was definitely some debate about sprinkler systems, and we were waiting on the seltzer bottles. I think they came from Argentina. Those were delayed for, like, three months or something like that, so all the typical hurdles when you're opening a restaurant came our way, of course.
What was the space before? It was the Farragut House, a classic neighborhood Irish pub.
How did the opening go? Amazing. We tried to do a soft-opening, but it didn't work, it felt pretty hard to me. But we had all sorts of people, some press and some foodies who had been peeking out what we'd been doing for a while. But there was nothing soft about it.
Do you plan to keep Pinky's Deli going? Yeah, it's really cool. It's a whole different concept from what we do at night. We're really excited to see how it works out for summer for sure. We also offer six foot sandwiches for events and whatnot, and we've had some success with that, which is pretty cool. Carrying six footers around the neighborhood to some local businesses for their luncheons has been fun.
How do you carry a six footer through the neighborhood? It takes two people. Very carefully.
How have the reactions and reviews been? We've received a lot of positive encouragement for sure. Some people were a little taken aback by some of the things that we're doing in the neighborhood that we're in. We like to put some healthy twists and some bright colors and some whimsical stuff on the menu, and some people kind of raised their eyebrows a little bit, but I think we've developed a pretty loyal following and there's something for everyone, which I'm really proud of.
Does it feel like it's been a year? Yeah, it feels like it's been two.
What's the must-order dish? Our chicken and waffles is a staple for sure. We switch around the waffles: right now we're doing chocolate chip waffles with red jalapeno butter, but we've done date and bourbon waffles with vanilla honey butter, so that's definitely a must-have.
Was it hard to switch gears from Grezzo? The food itself is different but the philosophies behind it, the time and love that goes into marinating and pickling and presentation and freshness and color, all those threads are the same as before. We just happen to be using animal products.
Did any of the raw food tricks transition over? Oh, absolutely. You'll see superfoods all over the menu, whether they're recognizable or not. We use a dehydrator to create textures in our eggplant bacon, same philosophy, same attention to detail, just different medium.
Any plans for the future? I'm almost certain David Rosenberg, our visionary, has something up his sleeve, so we're just waiting for his call.
· More of One Year In on Eater [-EB-]
· All Local 149 Coverage on Eater [-EB-]