Local Foods opens in Rice Village with sleek looks and yummy sandwiches
True confession: While many mourned the passing of Antone's in Rice Village, I did not. It may have been an institution, but when I worked next door there was nothing appealing about its overall sense of mustiness.
However, the new Local Foods makes me wish I was still in the neighborhood. The clean space is owned by Benjy Levit and chef Dylan Murray, and in some ways is a casual extension of the Benjy's next door. Designer Aaron Rambo has wiped out all the clutter and brings out a modern look finished with some retro touches like exposed brick, white subway tile and an aluminum trough full of real Coke and Dublin Dr. Pepper.
There are some hints of Revival Market in the gourmet offerings but the spare space and focus on prepared foods reminds me most of River Oak's Relish.
Local Foods, which opened quietly on Wednesday, has shelves of products (that are, you guessed it, local) lining a few shelves, including Texas Hill Country olive oil, Worcestershire sauce from Grateful Bread, local honey and Benjy's branded items like beer nuts and granola.
Murray says the products for sale are all things they are already using in the kitchen and that in time he hopes to expands both the range of total products available, including — someday — fresh fish for them to filet and cook for you, Pola cheese and more produce.
But right now Local Foods is predominantly a sandwich shop. There are some hints of Revival Market in the gourmet offerings — house-smoked salmon, local greens and red onion jam on a poppy seed bagel, duck confit panini with melted brie, arugula and cranberry preserves — but the spare space and focus on prepared foods reminds me most of River Oak's Relish.
I tried a sandwich with Gulf shrimp, crab, a light salad-y mix and Benjy's green goddess dressing on ciabatta bread. The sandwich was so stuffed with goods that I couldn't keep it from falling apart in my hands, but it was cool, slightly sweet and delicious.
For sides, Local Foods offers Benjy's house-made potato chips, but focuses on lighter offerings like a crisp butternut squash salad, and a blanched kale mix with pine nuts and a touch of olive oil and cheese. Kale is often too bitter for my taste (no matter what Modern Family says), but this version was just sweet enough and totally addictive.
There are other unique features, like root beer from 8th Wonder Brewery, Benjy's awesome mintade and soft-serve ice cream made in-house. It's still a work in progress, but there's a lot to like here.