Local 44 Announces Its First Ever Executive Chef

Though Local 44 has been serving from scratch food since its opening almost four years ago, the West Philadelphia bar is just now hiring its first executive chef, Justin Bennett. The former chef de cuisine at Zinc and has also been spotted in the kitchens of Stateside, Kennett and The Corner comes to the job.

The menu changes will be rolled out slowly with the goal being to step up the food game at Local 44 and become more of a food destination.

Also of note, starting on Friday, August 10th the Bottle Shop at Local 44 will be slashing the prices on some inventory as they want to clear out some room for all of the Fall beers that are right around the corner.

Local 44 [Official Site]

Around The Web

Be respectful of our online community and contribute to an engaging conversation. We reserve the right to ban impersonators and remove comments that contain personal attacks, threats, or profanity, or are flat-out offensive. By posting here, you are permitting Philadelphia magazine and Metro Corp. to edit and republish your comment in all media.

  • The Passive Voice is Your Enemy

    Has no one proofread this before posting?
    Must have been all that Blind Pig.

    regardless: Bonne Chance, Chef!

  • Josh

    We love the menu at Local 44! Please do not remove the wonderful vegan options–buffalo tofu, seitan pastrami, and vegan Mac’n’cheese! Please keep the prices affordable!!! This is one of our favorite places in Philly–we practically live there and we hope it stays as reasonably priced and good for all types of diets as it currently is!

  • maf

    @Josh you wanna know why chefs don’t like vegans….because you feel it’s your right to tell someone how to run their business, and what food they can and cannot put on their menu. How dare you. Maybe the reason the people at Local 44 need to put some PR out there about their change of chefs is because of people like you who don’t know how to correctly patronize a bar/restaurant and they need to generate more business that works for THEM, not YOU. Ive never been there and I consider myself thankful for that considering the place is loaded with a bunch of hipster vegans.

  • JTA

    Over react much?? He asks politely, says please, and that he hopes it stays reasonably priced. He lists some a number of the dishes he likes, so its likely he’s a regular patron. No commands, no telling anyone how to run the business.

  • Josh

    @Maf, not sure where anyone said chefs don’t like vegans. Most restaurants now actually have options for many different diets–vegan, gluten-free, nut allergy, etc. It makes good business sense to not want to try and kill people, who can’t eat certain kinds of food.

    I’m sure that you aren’t reading this post, however, as you’ve probably crawled down into your bunker with your pro-NRA stickers, awaiting the federal government’s raid on your militia and/or doomsday’s arrival. Kinda stinks, now that the US is no longer an unfettered playground for white men, doesn’t it? Hopefully, you’ll stay in your little hole in the ground (circa 1947), where the rest of us modern-folk don’t have to deal with the likes of you. Oh, and if you plan to go all whack-job, like your supremacist friends in the midwest and south, please go to a psych ward first and make sure they do a “workup” on you: a) you’d probably enjoy it (lots of pretty lights and gowns and electrical probes! yay!), and b) it would help keep the rest of us “normals” safe.

  • Josh

    @Maf, oh, and have you taken any business classes? (I’m guessing that’s a “no.” Businesses cater to the PUBLIC not to the OWNERS. Any business that doesn’t take customers’ tastes into account is 100% guaranteed to fail. Especially in the restaurant business, where about 80% of them fail within the first 3 years. That’s why they have “customer comment” cards and the like. I’m sure, though, that you probably don’t go to many “real” restaurants…I mean, except for your nearby TGIF that you enjoy just-so-gosh-darn-much. Am I right?

  • maf

    @Josh…most restaurants have a “vegan/veg” option not because it makes business sense…it’s because vegans/vegetarians have bullied enough people into that option. Vegans have an agenda to go into a meat friendly restaurant, demand there should be vegan options, tell the server or manager they are horrible people, then complain on yelp that there is no vegan option. And you can’t tell me that doesn’t happen because I’ve seen it done too many times. I’m stating to you how vegans are viewed in the restaurant business. Come at me all you want about what you think of me personally, I don’t care. Just keep pretending you’re saving the world when you and ten of your vegan friends go into a Local 44, probably fifteen minutes before they close, and order three mac and cheese between the ten of you….and not tip, then over stay your welcome. And since you “practically live there” I’m sure that’s what’s going on.

    Here’s your business lesson for the day: “The menu changes will be rolled out slowly with the goal being to step up the food game at Local 44 and become more of a food destination.” Stepping up the food game doesn’t mean catering to vegans. And when a business puts money into PR about a new chef, whose resume above didn’t include a vegan restaurant, it means they are most likely stepping into an arena dominated by meat friendly establishments.

    I didn’t start out disliking vegan views but your crowd has made it more and more difficult for even a reasonable person, who works in the business, digest your drivel. Next you’re going to tell us that foie gras is evil….oh, wait you already have. Maybe vegans could threaten chefs and their families welfare if they don’t conform…oh, wait…that’s been done too. So who’s holding the gun now Josh?

    I commented on your post because in my eyes it seems unfair to tell someone how they should run their business, which is what you did. The majority of restaurants fail because they have no idea what the business is like or how to run a restaurant. Not because they don’t listen to comment cards. If they need comment cards to tell them how their business should be run they shouldn’t be in the business in the first place. Plain and simple. Comments on yelp don’t give the true measure of success for a restaurant.

  • rory

    really? no one’s going with the obvious “only vegans would have liked the old menu” joke? because having had the food a couple times, only vegans would have liked the old food. Twas below par. Hopefully this improves it.

  • Josh

    @Maf, wow. Not sure why I keep responding to trolls. They seem to exist everywhere on the internet, just wanting to egg people on and not really contribute much productive to the debate. But I guess I will reply, anyway. Interestingly, you don’t know anything about me, nor do you know anything that I’ve ever said or done in any establishment about my dietary constraints. Remember, some people have medical reasons for eating the way they do, right? But you’ve certainly inferred and generalized a WHOLE lot beyond what I actually said, didn’t you? Is that something you are willing to admit?

    I’m honestly sorry that you’ve had bad experiences with people who have views different than your own. That said, I was (indeed) rude to you and I should not have been. I agree with you that dogmatism is dogmatism, regardless of whether it is conservative or liberal. And I agree with you that many customers are rude and demanding. That’s the nature of the business. How do I know this, because (no) I don’t show up five minutes before closing time at 44. I’m actually pretty well known to the owners and the staff at all of their establishments. We have a good relationship and can debate about these things. I’ve never told anyone how to run their business or how they should live their lives. You have to live with your moral conscience and I have to live with mine. As the previous poster noted, I am providing positive feedback about something that I like at the establishment that is already a regular part of their menu (and has been for 4 years). I am hoping that they can keep some of the quality items that many customers like (and not just me, by the way), while improving in the ways that they desire. Food and restaurants are expensive, and not all of us live privileged lives (like I’m assuming you do) and so I was also making a plea to keep prices reasonable. But I understand they also have to make a profit.

    It must be difficult for you, though, and I am sympathetic–to carry around all that anger at a stranger(s) you’ve never even met. To get so angry about, of all things, OTHER people’s dietary preferences? Whew. Makes me glad that I’m not one of your colleagues. Might want to check with your peers and see how well-respected you are at work. I’m not suggesting that sarcastically; I think that it might be a good (and humbling) exercise for you. These situations are complex and nuanced and deserve thoughtful discussion, not black-or-white one-sided thinking.

  • Michael G

    I honetsly didn’t think he was being a vegangelical…you know the pompous, judgemental types who want to convert you to their beliefs.

  • Josh

    Rory, any particulars that you didn’t enjoy? Have you offered the owners your feedback? What are the other restaurants (in that price range and casual atmosphere) that you do enjoy?

  • Josh

    Michael, thank you. I know many vegans and gluten-free eaters and vegetarians and nut-allergy sufferers and the like. None of us have ever told anyone how to live their lives. Maf clearly has some sort of axe to grind, and I’m unsure why. But please don’t classify people who choose to live life differently as “pompous.” There are any number of reasons why people choose to eat and live the way they do. Maybe, if we were to sit down and have a dialogue about it, I could come to understand your perspective and you could come to understand mine (e.g.). We might learn something from each other. Indeed, if we were that dogmatic about our beliefs, we probably wouldn’t go to a restaurant that also serves one of the best burgers in town.

  • maf

    @josh…I’m confused…I haven’t, in the least come at you with any anger. This would be coming at you with anger!!!!!! See? Also I’m confused because, in life, when one calls someone names, and shows their childish nature while doing so, and then apologizes it usually means you stop the name calling and insults. Then you go on to respond to another email stating “we might learn something from each other”. Really? You call your name calling responses “thoughtful discussion”? Please.

    I stated facts about the restaurant business and how it feels about vegans, the WHOLE lot.

  • badjack

    Maf.. who appointed you spokesman for the entire restaurant business?

    Over the last 15 years I’ve cooked with plenty of top-notch chefs, and not one of them had any resentment about vegans – vegans who happened to be assholes, yes – but not vegans. The only people I’ve worked with in kitchens who were so resentful and generically angry about vegans were young line cooks who didn’t yet know any better.

  • chris

    the food sucks, there. that was by design, the food sales there are incidental; you know, order a burger or wings after having a few.

    it also is not affordable – $12 for a chicken and mozz sandwich on shitty bread? there? please.

    brendan and leigh knew it, they were ok with it.
    what changed? who knows.

    but, i’m pretty sure this chef was hired reluctantly, brendan doesn’t like being told he’s wrong.

  • barryg

    If food is an incidental at Local 44, why won’t they seat you in the large back area unless you’re eating? I have passed on going there several times to drink and not eat with a group because I knew it would be hard to get a seat.

  • Snippy

    Jason, quit being a crybaby and eat your meat.

  • rory

    @Josh–you do seem mad. I don’t remember what I had a year ago and six months before that (the two times I went), i just remember it tasted of cheap cheese and one thing was overly battered. And you want a list of better gastropubs? LOL–that’d be beyond easy to list (standard tap, johnny brenda’s, mccrossen’s, st stephen’s green, silk city, memphis taproom, resurrection, and most definitely the Khyber, just off the top of my head).

    have i offered the owners feedback? I don’t have a duty to do that. My feedback was simple: I didn’t come back. the owners weren’t there, and besides which, telling an owner you didn’t like the food doesn’t go over well all the time–especially when your main complaint is “this tastes like cheap ingredients.” lol.

    sorry, but i spoke with my wallet when i decided not to return.

  • Steve

    @Maf. I am a meat eater, but I also appreciate vegan/vegetarian dishes. I will often try a veggie dish at a restaurant because I like to have variety in my diet. Nobody has ever “bullied” me into ordering it. Why is it such a big deal for a restaurant to have a variety of dishes that will cater to multiple tastes and likes?

  • Shawnboy112

    I’m a vegetarian, and I hope that Local 44 continues to have options for me, but I too am happy that they are changing the menu. I always thought their food was OK, but not good enough to draw me there for a meal. It was always about the beer. With the hiring of an executive chef, hopefully I will find the food just as enticing as the beer selection.

  • Chris: Thanks, but no thanks. Don’t speak publicly for Brendan or I ever please.

    Vegan haters: Whatever. Vegan and Veg fare has always found a home on our menus and always will. Our priority has always been inclusivity, and that includes vegans.

    We’ve spent 4 years eating at Local 44 and liking it just fine. The food was never an afterthought, just not the main focus, the way the beer has been. Plenty of people seem to like joining us for dinner.

    You can only get a table if you’re eating because we have so few tables and so many folks who want to eat. It helps make this possible. This, I do not think, is a crazy new concept.

    Our prices are in line with what food costs, and if anything we battle to keep the costs low so that more people can visit us more regularly. We’ll keep on doing that.

    The stepping up of the menu and hiring of a chef who will facilitate this is an effort to grow with the neighborhood.

    Easy enough to understand. If you’re finding a scandal here, it’s because you’re in need of one.


  • Seitan

    You sound annoyed, mix some seitan and warm soymilk to relax

  • Ha! (Only annoyed at being spoken for by a stranger. It colored the rest of it. Apologies.) Will not be trying your suggestion…