The restaurant's appeal lies in made-from-scratch dishes using local ingredients.
When people defend their reasons for frequenting chain restaurants - they're affordable, they're wear-anything casual, and they feature menus with familiar items that'll please the entire family - I get it.
Clearly the year-old Powell place called Local Roots got it too, and decided to provide those same conveniences, only with a more made-from-scratch attitude plus local ingredients.
Local Roots is a big, open, bar-equipped room tinted in a brownish palette with lots of booths, very few decorations and little to no noise-absorbing carpet or fabric.
So one early evening, while kids yelped loudly into the echoing space and adults tuned into inexpensive cocktails, discounted Ohio-made beers and baseball on flatscreens, I likewise locked into the cut-loose, nonchalant mood of Local Roots' happy hour (which runs generously every day, from 2 to 7 p.m.) and ordered some half-priced appetizers.
Here, I've got to hand it to the enabling cook who designed the evil Potato Dippers ($4 during happy hour). They're big old battered and seasoned wedges of spuds paired with an apparently homemade cheese sauce (not one of those DayGlo things) jazzed up with crispy real bacon bits and snipped scallions. Sure it's just junk food, but it's well-made junk food and difficult to resist.
Even better and certainly more respectable was the Spicy Crab Dip ($5 during happy hour). Presented retro-style in a toasty bread bowl, it was more rich and creamy than spicy, and had actual crab meat in it - not those bogus sealeg thingys.
I was also pretty impressed with the Baby Back Ribs (half rack for $14). They were big, meaty and fatty, and slathered with a very nice and ungloppy housemade barbecue sauce whose restrained tomatoey sweetness was balanced by a jolt of mustard. The crusty, dark-spotted but unsmoked bones were sided with tangy and deliciously dairy-ed, thinly sliced scalloped potatoes with a pleasant oniony spike plus thick-cut homey coleslaw jacked up with horseradish and celery salt.
Scoring better in the health department was the New Age Fish & Chips ($12). Broiled instead of battered and fried, big chunks of slightly overcooked OK cod were simply and effectively flavored with olive oil, salt and garlic. This was served with the nice house slaw plus - in lieu of grease-gurgled fries - roasted salt-and-pepper-crusted redskin potatoes.
The Carnivore Bliss pizza ($19 for a mammoth, feeds 3-4 pie) was of the all-American type. Its daily house-made crust was bready and thickish, and its viscous sauce was sweet and oregano-kissed. The pizza arrived with an onslaught of pig meat (pepperoni, sausage, ham) and soft, herby meatball chunks.
Most every day, Local Roots offers a super-cheap meal deal. Wednesdays it's a burger and a beer for $6. The burger, which tasted flame-grilled and came on a toasted bun and with crispy, ungreasy homemade chips, was decent but not phone-home special.
Still, like many things at Local Roots, it was reason enough to break the chain of dining at corporate haunts.
To read G.A. Benton's blog visit ColumbusDiningGuide.com