Review: The Local Kitchen & Drinks Wellesley

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Local Kitchen & Drinks -- an upscale casual family-friendly pub with existing locations in Newton and Wayland -- opened recently in Wellesley to much fan fare.

It replaced China Sky which was an incredibly clean and overall outstanding but often empty Chinese restaurant. The addition of a restaurant like The Local is a welcome addition. Wellesley has lacked a sit-down restaurant where you can get an $11 burger.

They just recently started opening for lunch, and I'd heard unfavorable reports of an uncomfortably crowded parking lot and service glitches on weekend nights so I thought visiting during less crowded lunch hours would be a good play.

And it mostly was.

Build Out

Cozy and comfortable with clean modern lines 
I really liked the way they've transformed the space both aesthetically and in its thoroughness. China Sky was, I thought, a very nice restaurant and although it was a different vibe I'm sure it was tempting to re-use a lot of the hardware. Take for example the Baldwin door hardware China Sky had. It's gone and replaced with something more matched to the look and feel they're going for...
Bar area is expanded since the China Sky days
...which strikes a very nice balance between cozy and comfortable with clean modern lines. Brown and blue hues along with unique lighting that strikes the perfect balance between modern and vintage.
Nice selection of beers on tap
Though we didn't sit at the bar area it seemed welcoming. I believe they still need to adhere to 'ye olde Wellesley tradition of requiring food to be ordered to get a drink at the bar.


The pub atmosphere definitely lends itself more to beer than wine and they had a nice, focused list of beers on tap for $7.
Lots of local beer options
I went for a Bar Harbor "Cadillac Mountain" Stout from Bar Harbor Brewing Company. I'd never had it before but thought it was Very Good+ (Beer Advocate link) with a very nice touch of toasted chocolate wrapped around a classic Irish stout frame.
Bar Harbor Brewing Company Cadillac Mountain Stout
(with supporting kids drink - lemonade)
The wine list, entirely by the glass with no bottle offerings as far as I could tell, was far less local. In fact it wasn't even domestic. Most of the selections were, strangely, from Europe.
Wine selection isn't very local
It's not even very domestic
I'd love to see some local wines like Travessia (here's why), Westport Rivers, and Turtle Creek. But even if they don't want to go that far I think their wine program would be more successful with recognizable domestic brands. But whatever - it definitely feels more like a place to get a beer anyway so it's not that big a deal.


The menu showed a good amount of diversity yet didn't offer so many offerings as to be overwhelming or unfocused. The Coffee Braised Short Ribs sounded good, as did the Spicy Hong Kong Noodles, but especially because of the John Dewar association I went for the burger.
Good entree diveristy
I love the price point of their Prime Burger: $11. Wellesley has, strangely, lacked a sit-down $11 burger in a setting like this. The Cottage's burger goes for $13.95 but the atmosphere there points you in other directions (and the food on average isn't very good in my experience).

I had it tricked it out with Swiss and Roasted Mushrooms. I'm torn on whether it was a really good burger. It looked pretty good, and I appreciated the toppings providing isolation between the burger and the bottom bun so the bun didn't get soggy.

Although the burger was very juicy in terms of how it dribbled onto the plate when I picked it up, it seemed a little dry. I ordered it "medium" and it was pink in the center so I don't think it was overcooked. In hindsight perhaps it was a lack of seasoning that made it seem just a bit lackluster. The fries were well seasoned and very good.
Prime Burger with Swiss and Roasted Mushrooms
They have a "Junior's Menu" which was appreciated with our little dudes (now 6 and 8) joining us. They both went for pasta dishes which were very simply prepared but enjoyed. $8 seemed a little steep especially since it didn't include drinks or a dessert.
Kids menu didn't include drinks -
but does now!
I mentioned this on Twitter as a low-light and they responded back with a thoughtful policy change:
Wow! You've got to appreciate that they're listening and still tweaking the formula.

Conclusion and Recommendations

The Local is a welcome addition to the Wellesley dining scene. The town really needed a restaurant like this and I can think of a lot of situations where we'll find it hits the spot. Perhaps like The Cottage, the food could use a little more flavor to be more memorable.

Lunch set us back $60+ with tip (2 adult entrees, 2 kids meals, 2 kids drinks, 1 beer) which seems a tad pricey. We'll definitely be back though. I think it's going to be a very successful restaurant.

Overall Rating:
88/100 WWP : Very Good

Check 'em out:
The Local
11 Forrest Street
Wellesley, MA 02481

Further Reading:
Question of the Day: Have you been to The Local? If so, what did you think?


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