You won’t find a lot of upscale dining options in Harford County, says Zack Trabbold. “If you talk to anybody that’s in this area, they all go to Baltimore to eat dinner,” he says.
During his 10 years as a chef in Baltimore—bouncing from corporate restaurant groups and the celebrated 1920s luxury of The Bygone to catering—Trabbold’s restaurant concept was always in the back of his mind.
Now, as the executive chef and owner of The Local—which opened in Fallston Aug. 31—he hopes it’s only a start for a new wave of creative cuisine in the area.
Besides One Eleven Main, the county is mostly populated with bars and chain eateries, he says.
Maryland is rich in agriculture. Its farms, breweries and distilleries are the best in the country, but he says they are underutilized, especially in Harford County.
His vision for The Local was elevated comfort food, but the primary focus was on drawing from local sources.
The great thing about shopping locally is that you always know what you’re buying and what you’re serving, Trabbold says. For example, all the products from the Bailey family from Grand View Farm, in Forest Park, are non-GMO and hormone- and chemical-free.
Ricky Foxwell, who has worked with Trabbold for about five years, says it’s also an opportunity to give back to those who had a hard time adjusting during the pandemic.
“The small local farms and businesses suffered the most,” he says.
“They know the farms. They know the people.” says Chris Yates, chef de cuisine at The Local, of customers. “It’s good to know that you’re supporting someone else while they’re supporting us as well.”
Right now, Trabbold has about 15 local suppliers, but they represent a rotating and growing list. All the artwork in The Local was also curated locally, and the charcuterie boards were made by J.R.’s Timeless Treasures in Fallston.
The Local also hosts area musicians for live music each night.
Besides having a local focus, it was also important for Trabbold to bring elevated dining to the community. Elevated, to Trabbold, means high-end dining but also elevating his team—about 50 including a catering arm—to push themselves creatively.
Trabbold always felt creatively stifled by corporate restaurant standards. He wanted his team at The Local to be free to experiment. As a result, his menu has everything from pan-Asian to Italian cuisine.
“I don’t want to handcuff any of my chefs,” he says.
Among current menu items are “Shrimp and Grits,” which pairs Cajun-seasoned U-15 gulf shrimp with sweet potato and smoked Gruyere grits and “Tuna Tostada,” a blackened sushi-grade ahi tuna dish that includes marinated cucumber salsa, avocado mousse and shaved pickled jalapenos.
The “Verlasso Salmon” makes use of fall flavors such as roasted winter squash, baby spinach, couscous, red beet puree, thyme maple gastrique and parsley truffle crumb.
The same experimentation is true of the cocktail menu, which takes traditional drinks such as the Old Fashioned and puts its own spin on them.
Mixologist Natalie Piccirilli says one of her favorites is the Jalapeño Business. This cocktail includes house-made jalapeño agave-infused simple syrup, fresh pineapple juice, Tres Agaves organic tequila and Fee Foam, which gives it a frothy head.
“Before we opened this place, we actually traveled a bunch of places and had just gotten ideas,” she says. The idea for this cocktail, she says, came from a visit to Philly, and The Local team tweaked it to make it their own.
Part of the creativity at The Local is also redefining the idea of comfort food to include any type of cuisine.
“Comfort food to me is something that reminds you of a time and place that’s just special,” Trabbold says. “Food is memories and family and friends.”
Shania Agkamirian, who works on the kitchen staff, says that familial focus extends to the relationships among the staff, management and customers too. Patrons are never called customers—only guests—because Trabbold wants them to feel like guests in his home, as comfortable showing up in a suit as they are in sweatpants.
The atmosphere reflects that vibe.
A sleek marble bar and smooth dark wood tables make the restaurant feel high-end, while exposed brick, chalkboard listings and hanging light fixtures give it a casual, trendy edge.
And prices are accessible. You can get everything from the 3-pound Tomahawk steak for two, fileted tableside—which has been as high as $170, market price—to $11 to $15 sandwiches.
Trabbold says what they’re doing is resonating with the community.
By 1 p.m., the restaurant is usually full, with a two-hour wait for dinner during the week and a three- to four-hour wait on the weekends. Some people come in six days per week, he says.
Next up for the team is to add to the footprint of The Local, starting with an expansion into the building next door.
In the meantime, Trabbold’s team will be cheering him on as he competes in three categories at the World Food Championships in Dallas, Texas, in November. He will be making his award-winning “Buttermilk Chicken Sando,” which is currently on the menu.
“We’re super excited,” he says. “I plan on bringing home first.”
Make Your Reservation …
1918 Belair Road, Unit BC, Fallston
Open Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.