First Look: Local West

It’s been two weeks since Local West (7400 Detroit Ave., 216-417-7001) officially joined the near-west side neighborhood of Detroit Shoreway and already it is settling in nicely. The craft sandwich and beer cafe offers neighbors an attractive dining alternative to fast food, run-of-the-mill pubs and pricier bistros.

Owner Jon Mavrakis has done a remarkable job transforming the former Niko's Greek Grille into a slick, contemporary space with open kitchen, wood and corrugated tin walls, and chalkboard menus. There’s plenty of seating for folks who want to dine in rather than grab and go.

Guests scan the large wall menu, which is divided into categories for burgers, sandwiches, “signature eats,” pita pizzas, salads and sides. To place an order, diners tick off items on a paper menu with provided pencils and hand it over to the cashier. Orders are delivered to the table when ready.

All items are made to order, with management shooting for 5- to 10-minute wait times. Our salad landed on the table in about four minutes with the sandwiches landing somewhere around the 12-minute mark. I’ve heard reports of longer wait times when the restaurant is busy, which it was not during our lunchtime visit.

To craft its gourmet sandwiches, Local West uses all Ohio meat and poultry. In season, it is shooting for 75 percent local produce. The breads are sourced from local bakers as well.

There is a decidedly Greek undercurrent running through the menu. A classic Greek salad joins a large Caesar salad ($7.50) on the roster. That Caesar is served in a chilled ceramic bowl. The romaine is crisp and fresh, tossed in a garlicky, cheesy dressing with crunchy croutons. There are four salads in all. There’s a gyro served with all the trimmings, as well as a grilled octopus pita sandwich. And a half dozen pita pizzas, including the Athenian, topped with gyro meat, feta and onions.

The Italian beef ($10) – a Signature Eat – is a great roast beef sandwich if not necessarily a great Italian beef sandwich. For starters, the thinly shaved beef isn’t soaking in the beef broth before it goes into the baguette. Nor is the meat dipped. Nor is the sandwich dipped, even by request. All said soaking must come from the small side of au jus that is served on the side. The beef is topped with very mild giardiniera.

Sides, which are included with certain items, range from fresh-cut fries to oven-roasted lemon potatoes. A soft and creamy mac and cheese made with elbow macaroni is mildly seasoned and pleasant.

In addition to the sandwiches, Local West offers a nice selection of craft beer (in bottles and cans) and wine, with a nice representation of local producers that includes Great Lakes, Fat Heads, Columbus Brewing, Thirsty Dog, and Jackie O’s.

Look for a roomy patio to open whenever winter breaks.

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Douglas Trattner

For 20 years, Douglas Trattner has worked as a full-time freelance writer, editor and author. His work on Michael Symon's "Carnivore," "5 in 5" and “Fix it With Food” have earned him three New York Times Best-Selling Author honors, while his longstanding role as Scene dining editor garnered the award of “Best...
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