We’re not locals in North Hampton, but that didn’t make us feel any less welcomed by the good folks at Locals Restaurant & Pub, a comfortable eating and drinking establishment on Route 1.
In a region where restaurants are plentiful — and good ones put the lesser ones out of business — Locals has a strong neighborhood draw just south of the Rye town line. It is a spacious and lively place of games (including trivia), casual dining, just plain lounging and watching sports on TV, topped by a menu and kitchen that rivals or beats many of its better known competitors.
Besides a wide-open lounge area with plenty of televisions, and a huge dining room/game room for pool, foosball, bar games and darts, Locals features well-prepared seafood and traditional dinner and lunch fare, and a most friendly and comfortable setting for quaffing a cool one after work.
Dinner specials are satisfying home-cooked meals such as meatloaf, full turkey dinners and slow-roasted prime rib, with selected food and drink specials daily along with discounted beer, wine and appetizers ($5) weekdays from 3 to 6 p.m.
We were more in the mood to talk quietly and enjoy dinner, rather than join the crowd near the bar. A comfortable booth away from the hubbub served us well.
Patrons can choose from an assortment of standard pub appetizers, burgers, salads, sandwiches and soups, but deeper on the menu one finds a fine selection of steaks, chicken, beef and pasta, and a variety of true Seacoast seafood dinners to satisfy all. We shared a seafood entree and a fine rack of pork ribs.
Seafood Bake ($17.99) is a delightful, light casserole with shrimp, sea scallops, and haddock, broiled with white wine, butter and topped with garlic bread crumbs. The seafood is delicately breaded, and the sauce mixture is light, allowing the sea-catch flavor to shine through. Far too often, such casseroles are crisped on top and boiling at the bottom — over-cooked and over-sauced. Seafood Bake is an assortment or delicious fish, subtly complemented, and tastes outstanding. Slightly lemony, hardly creamy, and with a great flavor from the garlic bread crumbs.
I was in the mood to pig out, so naturally it was a full order of BBQ Baby Back Ribs ($19.99; half a rack for $13.99). This is an oversized plate covered with the rack of ribs, not quite smothered in Locals own barbecue sauce, served with a nice crisp cole slaw and accompanied by a side order of choice and a small House or Caesar salad.
The meat nearly fell off the bone. Slow cooked and saucy, it was rib after rib of tender meat, with just a touch of fat at the ends of the rack. With just a bit of help, I finished the entire rack. It was a fine meal indeed, recommended for dinner and leftovers except for the ravenous.
The staff at Locals is about the friendliest we’ve encountered lately. Kelly, our server, was quick to bring us drinks, and patient and gracious with our slow ordering and questions. Terrific service — right there when we wanted her, but not hovering. We imagine the atmosphere during big sports nights might be another story, but this night was reasonably quiet and we enjoyed the sports bar subdued.
The wide-ranging menu features a couple of specialty dishes we’d like to return for, namely Tuscan Chicken ($13.99), topped with a fresh tomato and basil salsa, and Cajun Chicken & Shrimp ($17.99) with a Cajun cream sauce and pepper jack cheese.There is much to like about Locals, and while deciding what to eat, you could not go wrong this particular week with $5 Margaritas on Monday or $5 Bloody Marys on Thursday.As the saying goes, “Wherever you go, there you are,” and wherever you are on Lafayette Road, up and down the Seacoast — and there are selections too numerous to count — Locals could become your preferred hangout, no matter where you live.