Executive chef Travis Stimpson is redefining local at his Billings gastropub, Local Kitchen and Bar.
Situated just east of the Shiloh Road and Grand Avenue roundabout, and inside the Country Manor Plaza is an intimate gathering space creating its own brand.
The eatery serves up locally sourced food, and benefits the community by subsidizing employees for 10 hours of local charity work each year, as well as making a monthly donation from a day’s proceeds.
The restaurant is decorated in a "modern wrangler" motif, its name burned into a rough-sawn, reclaimed paneled façade.
The interior, with black concrete-topped tables flanked by heavy metal chairs on polished concrete floors, recalls the hardy pioneers of Montana’s Trailhead.
Rustic glass-filament chandeliers dangle from the ceiling. A high top bar with a handful of seats provides for front row seating into the open kitchen. Light floods the room, which seats 36, through the tall east and south facing windows, while providing a view of the diners sitting on the patio outside.
The walls are covered with the Fleur collection of painted poppies by local artist Chance Robertson, bringing an red-orange glow to the room, reminiscent of campfires and the rise and set of the sun.
“Delicious cuisine, exotic flavors, and ingredients specific to Montana, but under-utilized,” as described by their website, are found here at Local. Lamb shank, strip loin, and a burger may sound ordinary, but the shank is served with onion rings, the New York strip loin with blue cheese mashed potatoes, and the burger adorned with whipped cheese. According to Chef Stimpson, this creamy delight is freshly prepared with whipped cream and melted cheese, gently folded together — not your typical Cheez-Whiz in a can.
On the menu, you will find Buffalo Cauliflower, the vegetarians' answer to a chicken wing. Roasted cauliflower with Class Action Ale batter tossed in Buffalo hot sauce and served over blue cheese mousse.
Also, mushroom stuffed local free range chicken breast over roasted fingerlings and King Family Farm greens in chive creme fraiche. And "cherry pie" — a pizza with garlic oil on the base, topped with molten mozzarella, port-soaked cherries, bacon, onion and blue cheese.
Stimpson says there are specific menus for those with special diets.
Owner John Heenan is a “pescetarian,” or fish-eating vegetarian, and Stimpson said that when he was designing his food offerings, “I did not want him (Heenan) to feel like he was missing out.” He continues, “A lot of people try to copycat what is already out there. Local, being a community restaurant, should be somewhere you can come in your golf clothes or jeans. But, if you are out on a date, I have stepped up my pub style food.”
This is not Chef Stimpson’s first cooking rodeo — he's worked at Walkers American Grill and Tapas Bar under Daniel Roberts, later at Cafe Italia, and most recently served as Lilac’s sous chef under Jeremy Engebretson.
For the diner, perhaps the only hitch is securing a seat on a Friday or Saturday night. Reservations are suggested.
For years, Stimpson talked about heading up a restaurant. He finally got his chance, and he is making a lasting impression at Local Kitchen and Bar.
Spinach Salad with Black Pepper Vinaigrette
Recipe by Chef Stimpson
3 strips bacon
1 shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
5 tablespoons olive oil
5 ounces fresh greens — baby spinach, arugula or spring greens
Cut bacon into thin strips and pan fry until lightly rendered on medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic to the hot oil and cook until tender. Then add black pepper and rosemary and stir vigorously to release the oil from the spices. Simmer for two minutes then add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Toss with fresh greens and serve immediately.