The philosophy of Local is very straightforward: Source and showcase the tastiest meats, cheeses and produce the Midwest has to offer.
—Pat and Ellie Mullins
In the last couple years, a community of people who care a great deal about food and drink have coalesced in Southwest Michigan, just across the lake from Chicago and just over the border from Indiana, barely more than an hour from the Loop. From Greenbush Brewery to Journeyman Distillery to Infusco Coffee Roasters, the Harbor County region is edging towards becoming a culinary destination—a place that could, someday, be compared to San Francisco's Sonoma Valley or New York's Hudson Valley.
Perhaps no two people represent this burgeoning community better than Pat and Ellie Mullins, the married proprietors of Local on the north edge of New Buffalo, Michigan. Outside of their shop, along the Red Arrow Highway, a red sign reads "bacon." I liked them immediately.
Inside the shop, they feature local produce, cheese, humane meat from heritage breeds, and handcrafted charcuterie—like guanciale, pancetta, and pastrami made from grass-fed beef from Middlebrook farms, which is owned and operated by Pat's parents.
Pat attended culinary school in Chicago, externing and eventually working at Blackbird before heading out west to cook at Hungry Cat in Santa Barbara (where he met Ellie), and Pizzeria Delfina in San Francisco. Drawn to the bounty of Michigan and with a love of food, they came back to the Midwest (where Pat grew up) to open Local.
Over the past year, I've stopped into their shop a handful of times, and I've always left with a bag full of whatever fresh sausages they have in their case (I've also been known to leave with a jar of bacon jam). Some highlights have been their chorizo, Wisconsin-style bratwurst, fennel and—wait for it—bacon-burger dogs. Pat and Ellie always seem to be experimenting with new products and ideas, like veal pastrami that they recently tweeted about.
Local is reopening this week after a month-long hiatus (things can get pretty slow in the winter in Michigan), and their products are only available, right now, in their shop. Hopefully a trip to Southwest Michigan is not far away.