#279: Local Kitchens

1:15PM 6/18-19/2022


A couple of months ago a co-worker recommended Local Kitchens, located on Fairway (near Kohl’s, BevMo, In’n’Out), and told me a little about it. It sounded a bit like a few food trucks got together and leased a brick and mortar restaurant space. I didn’t really have much of an idea what it would be like. Does each vendor have their own counter? Does it feel like a food court? Is it pickup only? Today I have answers to these questions and more as I just returned from lunch #2 in as many days at Local Kitchens.

Sometimes I like to go in cold, doing zero research. Sometimes this gets me into trouble, like when they are closed and I didn’t even go so far as to check their hours. Other times, like yesterday, I was delighted by a totally fresh experience. At first from outside it’s hard to say what you are looking at. The windows in-line with the building signage are totally covered up with more signage. The front door is to the left. Once inside it’s a shockingly simple setup. An open kitchen with a pickup counter sits at the back. To the right is a bare bones seating area with a few different types of tables, high and low-tops. A small counter towards the back of that area has a few basic items like napkins and plastic utensils. To your immediate left from the entrance are 3 touch screens for placing orders (you can also use their app to order for pickup or delivery). It’s honestly as if a shared Ghost Kitchen started offering dine in.

The ordering process was very smooth. I found the touch screens (iPad Pros, I think) responsive and the ordering app to be well designed, uncluttered and with a nice photo of every single item I looked through. It took me a moment of poking around to realize what “trucks” were available here. The first menu lumps a bunch of the most popular items from all the businesses together. Other menus organize the options for beverages, kids, vegan and vegetarian. Finally, each entity has their own menus. You can choose from: Sushiritto (Japanese), Nash & Proper (chicken), Senor Sisig (Filipino / Asian fusion), The Melt (burgers), Curry Up Now (Indian, burritos), Garden of Eat’n (healthy, salads, sandwiches) and Humphry Slocombe (ice cream). I’ve heard of a few of these before, most notably Nash & Proper, Curry Up Now and Garden of Eat’n (the last of which I visited back in 2016 and still has a location across from the Galleria). I was very excited to see Nash & Proper here. They are one of a few trucks I will go out of my way to try and visit when they are up here. Below is my favorite photo of their “Sammich”, their signature Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich.

Now that I’ve downloaded and looked around the app I see that this is one of a small handful of locations. All the others are in the Bay Area and have mostly the same options for “trucks” with each store seemingly having one or two unique to it.

Nash & Proper was calling to me loudly. I fought those calls off and checked out nearly everything available before the Tosilog Burrito caught my eye and I added to to the visual cart/bag/whatever. This is from Senor Sisig and consists of Filipino Sweet Pork, adobo garlic rice, fresh tomatoes and a fried egg. Served with a side of peppered vinegar. (Additional Eggs can be added). This was $13.50 + $1.75 to add a fried egg, which I did. The configuration options for this were kind of funny. First off the spice levels you choose from are No Spice, Mild, Medium, Spicy, Hella Spicy & Hella Hella Spicy. After the egg selection screen is a screen that just says “No Tomato” and has a checkbox for it. Tomatoes are sort of a love/hate thing for me so I went ahead and ticked the box. The last screen has a handful of extras you can add: Beans, Shredded Cheese, Guacamole, Sour Cream, Pico de Gallo, Adobo Rice, Cilantro Cream Sauce and Lettuce. I left all those alone, added a can of soda [$2] and checked out.

Checking out was simple with tap-to-pay on the credit card machine. You enter your name, which then shows up on a screen above the kitchen with an estimated wait time. You can also email yourself a receipt and enter your phone number for order updates.

The vast majority of customers seemed to be taking out. Most of the dine-in crowd were utilizing the outdoor seating since the weather was insanely beautiful. My order was ready in about 10 minutes and the manager, whom I spoke to briefly after ordering, actually brought it out to me (well we met about half way as I didn’t expect that). I grabbed a couple napkins (excellent, substantial and large napkins by the way, they were surprisingly noteworthy) and got to work.

What can I say other than this was a tasty burrito. It was constructed expertly and everything inside was perfectly distributed so I got a bit of everything in just about every bite. As noted in the description this came with a little cup of peppered vinegar. I cautiously took a whiff of it and wasn’t sure I would like it. It was straight up intense vinegar. Carefully, I poured a small amount into the burrito and took a bite and was pleasantly surprised. The strong vinegar flavor had melted away into the burrito and just served to enhance all the existing ingredients. I ended up using all of it by the end!

This morning, after playing video games instead of hitting the gym, I decided I would return for Nash & Proper for lunch. Little did I know that when I would get there I’d change my mind at the last second and order from Sushiritto instead. The Sumo Crunch sounded interesting and the photo was just sucking me in (Shrimp Tempura, Surimi Crab, Cucumbers, Red Tempura Flakes, and Sriracha Aioli rolled with Ginger Guac, Super-Premium Koshihikari Rice, and Proprietary Nori) [$14].

I had a decent view of the area that was making Sushiritto items. They have this crazy automated rice machine that spits out perfectly formed rice sheets ready to be rolled up. I would love to get a closer look at how the hell that thing works on the inside (Science Channel, let’s get together on a mini “How It’s Made” with stuff like this!)

My order was ready once again in about 10 minutes. This was a bit messy and slightly less crunchy than the name implied, though quite a visually interesting item with the red tempura flakes. The nori was fairly easy to bite through, although I wonder how well it would hold up if you had it delivered or were taking it to go. It did seem to get slightly chewier as I got to the end.

Overall I was really quite pleased with this place and it’s concept. These businesses all have something interesting to check out and it’s nice that you can get them all in the same order. A couple of thoughts I had on how they could make this even better:

  1. Shrink some of the items and sides down or offer different sizes, so you can try more variety in one visit without having leftovers or spending a small fortune.
  2. Liven up the dine-in option some more, it’s incredibly basic – amounting to the indoor equivalent of picnic tables and little else. Serve up some local beers!

#275: The Trax Taproom & Kitchen

12:15PM, 4/23/2022

Today for lunch I visited the new Trax Taproom & Kitchen, located on Vernon Street at S. Grant, kitty corner from the town square and across the street from the old post office and also across from a very convenient free parking garage. I’ve been to this location at least a couple times now for the blog. It’s been a coffee shop and a grilled cheese shop most recently and was vacant for quote some time. Now it offers a huge beer selection and a good selection of mid to upper tier bar foods. I parked in the parking garage, launched my drone and snapped some photos from the upper deck and headed in just after noon.

Found this nice mural at the entrance to the parking garage

My first impression upon entering was that it felt much more spacious and open than previously with Cheese Louise and especially with Extreme Java Jungle Cafe. They retained the iconic fireplace and the bizarre ceiling fans, that resemble a miniature carnival ride, which I enjoyed. Off to the right side there is a large roll-up style window that was open today to take advantage of the beautiful weather. Just past that is a couple of coolers with a large assortment of craft beers in cans ready to go. They can be enjoyed in the store but they do charge a small fee as they encourage them to be taken home.

As I was looking around and checking out tables for the best light I was beckoned up to the bar by a gentleman (might have been one of the owners, who I believe are a pair of brothers) and decided to take a seat up there. I scanned the QR code to check out the beer selection and was handed a physical menu for food. They do have an LCD TV that rotates through their beers but with so many to look at the phone version is slightly more convenient. I do always love when these types of places use Untappd because not only can you check out their menu at any time online in the app, you can check in with the app and it appears right on the menu in store. By the time I left I had swept the 5 available slots. My friend rightfully commented that using a flight to do so is “cheating for sure”, but I’ll take the win anyway ;).

Anyway on to what they offer! They’ve got an impressive 30 beers on tap and 18 food items, just about all which are well suited for sharing. The tap list was heavy with Moksa beers, the remainder of a recent tap takeover. I started out out with a glass of Mounds of Green IIIPA from Faction Brewing (IPA – Triple, 10.5% – 70 IBU)[$10]. This was probably about an 8-10oz pour, nice and cold. While I sipped on this potent IPA I skimmed the menu and picked out a couple items. Before I ordered I spotted an order of their Steam Engine Fries [$6] which looked amazing, crispy and golden fried, up in the kitchen window ready to be served. I fought off my desire to order those and went with the Bacon Wrapped Jalapeño Poppers (stuffed with cream cheese mix, wrapped with bacon, drizzled with paprika crema)[$10] that I had already settled on.

I wasn’t paying too much attention to the time but these took maybe 10 minutes or less to come out. Wow. I’ve had a lot of jalapeño peppers but these were in a class of their own. Maybe the best I’ve ever had. They were presented on a bed of arugula and the bacon was nice and crisp. I was amazed at how well they held together when taking a bite. The bacon held right on and didn’t come unraveled through several bites. The jalapeño had a nice heat without being too spicy, and the cream cheese cooled off what heat might have threatened to overwhelm it. I loved this.

I was about done with my IPA as I finished off the poppers and had noticed some flight boards stacked up behind the counter so I decided to get a flight with my next item, the Trax Tacos (Chicken, cheese, pico, pickled red onion, paprika crema)[$12]. For my flight I went with:

  1. Nuclear Powder (Outer Range Brewing Co. – Double New England IPA – 7.6%)
  2. N3LSON JUIC3 (Alvarado Street Brewery – Triple New England IPA – 10%)
  3. Key Lime Pirate (Barebottle Brewing Company – Sour, Fruited – 5%)
  4. In Harmony (Moksa Brewing Co. – Imperial Stout, Double Pastry – 12.7%)

Both the flight and tacos came out at about the same time. The tacos were street-taco-sized and the tortillas had a layer of cheese grilled to the outside with crispy bits flaring out here and there, which reminded me a lot of Squeeze-Inn’s cheese skirt, albeit much lighter. These tacos were outstanding, with tender pulled/shredded chicken that is making me hungry again just thinking about as I type this a couple hours later.

The beers were all great, especially In Harmony, which I’ve had a bunch of at Moksa, and probably still have a bottle or two in the beer fridge. The N3LSON JUIC3 and the Key Lime Pirate are also major standouts from this flight.

In Harmony, with my wrist band from today’s bottle release at the brewery

I’m extremely pleased by this visit and very happy to see this location finally being utilized in a way that I think should last a long time. It’s a great addition to Vernon Street, a spot you can hop over to after grabbing a bite at one of the other restaurants or after an event at the town square.


#271: Burger Lounge

11:00AM / 2/21/2022

Happy Presidents Day! Today I visited Burger Lounge, located in the Fountains shopping center right at the main fountains. This is a medium-sized chain that got it’s start in Southern California, which is where the majority of it’s locations reside. Just 4 have broken north and landed in the Bay Area and the Sacramento area.

They specialize in burgers and lean heavily into organic ingredients, including many plant-based and vegan options. The aesthetic is bright, modern and open. Although this corner spot at the fountains is perhaps a little on the cramped side in parts of the store, it feels like you can reach right into the kitchen with it’s semi-open area that the staff grabs your food from and all the needed sides and things that go along with it. You walk right through this area after ordering at the counter, and you fill your drink cup in this area as well.

Speaking of drinks, they have a selection of pure-cane sugar sodas by Batch Craft Soda. I checked out the Ginger Beer flavor and while it was tasty I found it to be incredibly, overly sweet. I rarely drink full sugar sodas though so take that with a grain of salt (or sugar!). They also have iced tea and a couple of lemonades to choose from. I found it mildly amusing that the one major brand soda they offer (Diet Coke) ends up going into a blue Pepsi cup.

Anyway on to the food! I’ve been here a few times over the years but always ordered burgers, mostly the S.O.B (Son of a Butcher) burger (grass fed beef, American cheese, caramelized onion, pickles and BL 1000 sauce). Today, prompted by a recent blog comment, I wanted to try their Alaskan Cod Sandwich (Pan-Fried Cod Fillet, Lettuce, Tomato, BL Tartar sauce)[$11.95]. I ordered it with no changes and added the Half & Half (Half Onion Rings and Half French Fries, Fried in 100% GMO-Free Rice Bran Oil)[$4.95]. I would have gone all out and checked out a hand-scooped shake but unfortunately they were unavailable today. They also offer dairy-free shakes, and root-beer floats in both dairy and dairy-free varieties.

Normally I like to sit outside on the patio. It’s really nice and has a great view of the fountains. Today was slightly chilly, especially in the shade, so I opted for indoors seating. In just under ten minutes my food was delivered to my table. I love how they stack the half & half rings and fries. It must be super annoying to have to do that, haha.

My previous experiences with the onion rings was that they were good but very greasy. That was somewhat the case here but they were far less greasy than in the past, which was welcome. These are also a bit on the salty side. Other than that they are incredibly crisp and have more of a breading than a batter, which helps give them such a great crunch and texture.

The fries are something I’ve been back and forth on. They are kind of plain, lightly salted, almost like In’n’Out fries (to be clear I am a huge fan of In’n’Out fries, which I know are very polarizing) with the peel left on. These are pretty decent on their own and just right with some ketchup (ketchup is available near the fountain drinks, organic of course).

On to the main course, the Alaskan Cod Sandwich. It was expertly assembled, not a single piece of shredded lettuce had fallen off. Between the tartar sauce and lettuce was a big slice of tomato, perhaps a bit underripe. While it did not really detract from the sandwich, it just didn’t add anything to it. The bun was nice and soft and held together to the end. The cod itself was really nice. Super tender and moist inside with a fantastic breading fried crisp, which reminded me of a lesser onion ring breading. This is a lovely light sandwich compared to the heavier burger options I’ve had previously.

I have to say I really dig this place. The food is quite good, the service is minimal but always friendly, and the place is clean and in a nice spot. The price is up there though. Today’s meal was just over $20 with tax. With the burgers I usually opt for some premium add ons including an extra patty which gets me close to $30. It’s not your everyday burger place for sure, but worth a visit once in a while. I’ll give it a solid 4/5. Speaking of my past burgers, it just so happens I took photos of several of them (big surprise) so here they are: