for some silly reason, we've been putting off our first visit to local harvest cafe. we've heard nothing but good things, and they've always sounded like our kind of place (you know, a place that has seats and serves good veg food). turns out, all we needed was a little discount from groupon to get us through local harvest's door. gods bless groupon.
tucked away on morgan ford road, just south of tower grove park (home to our favorite st. louis farmer's market, btw), local harvest perfectly plays the role of "neighborhood gem." we overheard some folks talking about outside seating, but we never got a glimpse of it, and anyway it was a touch too cold outside to be comfortable, so we opted for indoor seating. the first thing we noticed about local harvest was its striking similarity to sweet art's interior. one enters through an old wooden door, proceeds along the left side of the room toward a dessert display case, and places an order with the lone cashier. like sweet art, the walls, are peppered with hand-written signs and electic artwork. and just like at sweet art, there's a mishmash of retro and antique tables and chairs. there's lots of natural light thanks to the large front window, and the high ceilings provide a relatively spacious feeling despite the too-crowded tables. in any case, the reason we compare local harvest with sweet art is not just because of the obvious similarities; we draw your attention to these doppelgangers because even though we should have felt the same as we do at sweet art, we just never felt as comfortable at local harvest. maybe it has something to do with our bias for sweet art (we are admittedly fanatical about that place). maybe it has something to do with the clientele. who knows. either way, it's not that the decor was hideous or anything, but it just felt... off. a bit lifeless despite their efforts to feel full of life.
not much to say about the staff, as our only real interaction came with the guy who dropped off our food. we had a nice conversation about his tattoos and his preferred st. louis tattoo artist. aside from that, we were on our own. fine by us.
because of our groupon, we had to spend 25 bucks, so we ordered as much food as we could get without exceeding our limit. (note: local harvest is neither above or below average in their pricing.) we started with a chickpea chili, which proved quite tasty, though lois clearly enjoyed it more than clark. we were definitely pleased with the abundance of chickpeas, but we wondered why there weren't more vegetables.
from there, we dug into the seasonal veggie offering and molly's veggie burger. both were served with billy goat chips, which were remarkable 1) because they're excellent chips and 2) because they tasted considerably better than sweet art's chips. (again, we're not sure why the batch of billy goat chips at sweet art are different than all the other restaurants in town. it's confounding, really, as this is our only complaint about sweet art, and it's not even their product. grrr.)
the seasonal veggie offering was a meatloaf patty on ciabatta. the greens were fresh and the bun was good (thanks to companion bakery), but the patty left us wanting more flavor. we thought for sure that the veggie burger would deliver more of a punch, but we were disappointed with it, too. both sandwiches are beautiful, no doubt, and everything seemed very fresh, but it all was just a bit too bland. certainly, our moan-reflex was rarely engaged. also troubling was the substitution of ah!zeefa for house made hummus on the veggie burger. we're actually fans of ah!zeefa's products, but this mild version of their lentil spread wasn't bold enough to assert itself amidst the "veritable plenty" smashed onto the sandwich. the biggest disappointment, though, was that we wanted the hummus, not the ah!zeefa, and they didn't bother to let us know they were making a change. not cool, yo.
local harvest cafe celebrates local produce, and we love them for that, but the success of a restaurant should always rest on the quality AND taste of the food. they get points for offering interesting-sounding veg options, but we couldn't help but notice that the menu is clearly tailored for omnivores. we suspect that the insanely high rating for local harvest is the result of many, many omnivore votes. local produce and ingredients does not always equal delicious food, and local harvest is the perfect example. to be clear: the food was in no way "bad"; it just wasn't exciting, wasn't memorable or crave-worthy. we'll definitely try them again because we're willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, but if we're honest, our first visit was a bit of a let-down.