For years, it was difficult to banish the drab memories that Furr’s Cafeteria left in Normandy Creek Center on the corner of SW 24th Avenue and Main Street in Norman. As it turns out, all the location needed was the right tenant to exorcise the ghosts of surly lunch ladies, Salisbury steak and sticky mac-and-cheese. And with farm-fresh cuisine and an elegant yet inviting atmosphere, Local has done just that.
Local is the brain child/food baby of sisters Melissa Scaramucci, Heather Steele and Abby Clark, who were inspired by the idea of providing a different kind of dining experience – one that not only included cuisine composed of almost exclusively local/sustainable ingredients, but also offered a retail space featuring apparel from area artists and ready-to-eat meals, as well as “Localville” – a babysitting area for children to play while parents indulge themselves in a relaxed dinner.
The sisters, whose family has owned Waynoka’s Walnut Creek Farms since the Land Run, drew upon their family history and relationships with Oklahoma famers to make their dream a delicious reality.
“We spent about two years developing the restaurant before we opened,” Scaramucci says. “We used that time to meet other farmers and see their practices. We wanted to make sure we could truly have enough fresh and local food to sustain the restaurant throughout the year.”
It’s a concept that Chef Ryan Parrott (formerly of Deep Fork Grill and Iguana Mexican Grill) is excited to be on board with. “My favorite part about Oklahoma ingredients is being a part of the entire process,” he says. “I get to deal with farmers before items grow, take part in seed selection and harvesting. I can’t say I have one favorite ingredient, but rather the joy of watching all the things that come up in different parts of the year.”
The combination of 16 farms, the sisters’ vision and Parrott’s creative energy has created a culinary juggernaut on Norman’s restaurant scene. Less than three months after the doors opened, diners now fill every available table to experience instant classics, like the meatloaf cupcakes with mushroom sauce, Moroccan lamb with tomato jam and curry couscous; and seasonal ratatouille. In addition, the restaurant offers daily rotations of fresh ravioli and risotto inspired by the season. With additional lures, such as the newly added brunch menu and simple-yet-decadent desserts like the chocolate chipotle cake, Local has fast become a byword for eating excellence among Norman residents.
Scaramucci says that while Local may appear to be blazing a trail in the Oklahoma restaurant world, the concept behind it is as old as food itself. “I do think there is an idea that local food is trendy – which translates into expensive,” she says. “But eating locally has been the norm since humans arrived. Eating grapes shipped in from Chile 12 months out of the year is the odd thing in our history – not getting tomatoes from your neighbors’ gardens. We work hard to make sure our price points are affordable so that local dining can begin to be a true lifestyle choice. Not something you do every once in a while.” 2262 W. Main St., Norman. www.eatatlocal.com