7 Depot Place, Babylon
631-983-8900 (calls go to voicemail)
SERVICE: Eager to please
AMBIENCE: Airy bleached-wood bar with high-top tables, backless stools and multiple banks of flat-screen televisions
ESSENTIALS: Open Monday to Thursday 3 p.m. to 3 a.m., Friday to Sunday, noon to 3 a.m.; wheelchair accessible; metered parking on the street or in the LIRR lot across the street.
Sleepwalking from turkey sandwich to tuna wrap, it’s easy to forget how artful a sandwich can be — especially if its maker really cares about all of its parts. At The Local in Babylon, a sandwich wonderland masquerading as a sports bar, meat-on-bread gets almost Zen-like attention to detail.
Until recently, The Local was a weathered Irish pub called the Twisted Shamrock. A summerlong renovation kiboshed the dive-bar vibe and imported air and light: Soaring, beamed ceilings, bleached-wood tables and broad windows that swing open to the street and a view of the Babylon LIRR station, a few dozen steps away. Above your head is a bank of crackling flat-screen televisions. This sports-bar facade is deceptive, though, because every beam, screen, pint and decibel seems as if it has been carefully considered.
This is the latest effort from the team behind The Villager, elsewhere in town, whose burger earns a lot of love. But there is no burger on The Local’s menu. Instead, this bar smartly focuses on two things: Good beer and good sandwiches. It does both with flair, and easygoing service that keeps the wheels running smoothly.
The rotating 14 taps here turn mostly on German and European brews, such as spicy Delirium Tremens or crisp Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier (a wheat beer), listed on a chalkboard behind a centerpiece bar and served in style-appropriate glassware. For non-beer drinkers, brown spirits abound; though there is no cocktail list, the staff excels at mixing a good drink, elevating one request for “rum and some pineapple juice” into a tiki-type creation that everyone at the table wanted to sip.
Just as each beer finds the right glass, each sandwich lands on a bread (procured from Brick City Baking Co. in Ozone Park, Queens) bearing just the right amount of toast. Slabs of sourdough are lightly browned for a slightly sweet, avocado-smeared BLT (though if candied bacon is not your thing, best to avoid) and a sliced baguette is charred for a heavenly mayo-slathered banh mi piled with chili-spiked braised pork, sliced cucumbers and shredded carrots.
Executive chef Chris Weiss, the former sous chef at H20 in East Islip, marinates, roasts and braises most of his own meats, and his attention to detail is on triumphant display in what could be a humble roast-beef sandwich. He piles ribbons of rosy meat onto a toasted onion roll slathered with smoky horseradish sauce, molten Swiss oozing down its sides, for a sandwich that tastes like a gift. Though Weiss doesn’t make his own pastrami — it’s the only meat he gets elsewhere — The Local’s pastrami on rye has a soft, silken edge, served warm with alluvial layers of slivered apples and shredded Brussels sprouts.
When The Local’s sandwiches are overloaded, as a few of them are, the bread that holds them can grow soggy underneath. It’s a minor quibble for a luscious duck club, tarted up with cranberries, but more of a wet blanket for a construction of American cheese melted over sweet, smoky short ribs with a slaw of slivered cabbage and peppers that were more of a distraction than a virtue.
Sandwiches here come on metal trays with either fries or house kettle chips; the fries are hand-cut, deeply burnished but limp, whereas the kettle chips are coppery, crunchy fun. A messy appetizer of “loaded” kettle chips slathered with mayo, braised pork and melted queso can satisfy a nacho craving, but better for kicking off the meal — not destroying your appetite — are dainty, warm pretzel buns that have melted cheddar and punchy relish tucked into their slit tops, or fatty braised-duck tacos (two to an order) dribbled with a maple-laced chipotle sauce.
There are no desserts at The Local, which will be a disappointment to some, but plenty of malty beer that you could turn into a third course — if you still have any room left.