Thanks to the arrival of new options like the Conservatory food hall and taco spots La Calle and Dizzy Kaktus, downtown Houston is better than ever. While enthusiastic diners are eagerly awaiting the arrival of Xochi, the new Oaxacan restaurant from Hugo Ortega, and Brasserie du Parc, the new French restaurant from Etoile chef-owner Philippe Verpiand, those who live, work, or study can cheer the opening of one of the city’s most acclaimed sandwich shops.
Local Foods, a collaboration between benjy’s owner Benjy Levit and chef/partner Dylan Murray that’s known for its creative sandwiches, salads, and vegetable side dishes, opened its fourth location last week in the former Georgia’s Market at the corner of Main and Prairie. Designed by acclaimed Austin firm Michael Hsu Office of Architecture (Uchi, Oporto Fooding House, Hunky Dory, and Bernadine’s), the transformation from grocery store to restaurant has given the space a whole new look with white walls, green banquettes, and a large, U-shaped bar.
If it all seems vaguely nautical, that’s intentional. Just as the Kirby outpost features a rotisserie and the Tanglewood location has a pizza oven, the downtown location offers a selection of seafood items as its way to differentiate itself from its corporate siblings. Choices include cold shrimp skewers, ceviche, and snapper campechana.
“We like it,” Murray says about the decision to offer seafood. “It ties in with the theme, because it’s mostly (from the) Gulf. It’s lighter. Maybe it’s a reaction to all this barbecue. I think there’s this weird movement of the worst for you it is, the better. I just don’t buy it. I enjoy meat, but I like food that makes you feel good.”
Of course, the menu also has a few new meaty options. A breakfast sandwich contains pairs a fried egg and cheddar cheese with Hebrew National salami. The “BHR,” a creation of executive chef Geoff Hundt, utilizes tasso ham from local producer Black Hill Ranch along with butternut squash slaw, Swiss chard kimchi, and honey beer mustard. Dinner entree options include a braised beef short rib. Local classics like the truffled egg salad, crunchy chicken and Gulf seafood and crab are all present, too.
In addition to adding seafood, the downtown Local Foods will be the first outpost to feature a dedicated happy hour. General manager Vinnie Torres has stocked the bar with locally brewed craft beer, a range of wines, and a focused cocktail menu that utilizes Texas-distilled spirits and local produce.
“My goal is to create a menu utilizing as many local products as I can,” Torres tells CultureMap. “I don’t feel like we need to have a dozen drinks. If we can make five or six, it should be enough to accommodate most folks.”
Murray adds that he would be satisfied if the restaurant closes shortly after happy hour ends. “We have no interest in staying open until 10 or 11 at night,” he says, but Murray allowed for the possibility that the restaurant’s breakfast sandwich could lead to earlier hours and an expanded breakfast menu.
With downtown seeing more residential growth, the demand could certainly be there. As the company’s six year-long rise has demonstrated, Houstonians like eating what Local has to offer.