Photographs: Chelsea Ross]
The locavore philosophy is nothing new, but it’s rarely done with such finesse in Streeterville as at Local Root, a smart addition to a neighborhood mired in quickservice lunches and glamorized bowling alley food. The mantra at Local Root sounds like something Alice Waters would write in her diary, about changing our food system to save the world, embracing the seasons, and eating sustainably. Perhaps a tall order for these parts, but the food speaks for itself, and it’s quite persuasive.
Local Root’s brunch items seem ordinary at first glance, but there are uncommon touches scattered throughout, such as a surprising amount for lamb, not your typical brunch culprit. In fact, I haven’t seen this much lamb in one place since I last watched Babe. Biscuits ‘n’ gravy ($10) come slathered in lamb sausage gravy, a breakfast sandwich ($7) is layered with lamb, egg, and cheese, and an omelette ($12) is stuffed with lamb sausage and chèvre. As someone with an odd handicap when it comes to cooking omelettes (I just can’t do it!), I greatly appreciate a well made one, and Local Root knows its egg cookery. The lamb omelette is as delicate and light as omelettes come, studded with crumbly nuggets of fennel-seasoned lamb sausage and tangy dollops of chèvre. The accompanying home fries are some of the best I’ve had, nailing the balancing act of crisp exterior to fluffy interior. Brioche bread is made in-house, and makes for mighty fine toast, as is the ketchup, which might be the first housemade ketchup I’ve ever actually preferred to Heinz. More often than not, housemade turns out achingly acidic and/or brown, but Local Root achieves rich tomato flavor without making me feel like I’m eating mashed foliage.
When cheese and French toast ($9) dance together, it’s usually in the form of one of those hulking cream cheese-stuffed monstrosities. Local Root again applies a more delicate hand, sprinkling morsels of Trader’s Point blue cheese over a heap of tender French toast. The housemade brioche is as fluffy and light as a buttery brioche comes, making it perfect fodder for French toast, with a texture and flavor akin to cake.
It’s rare I find a place as dainty as Local Root, outfitted to look like a level in Super Mario Bros., with such a strong passion for locality and housemade products, but this place is the brunch equivalent of the little engine that could, and we’re all rooting for it.