Chris McKinley of The Local in Downtown Phoenix: "We Just Want to Have Fun"
Lauren Saria Chris McKinley of The Local.
If you've been to The Local, then chances are you've already seen chef Chris McKinley. He's usually in the open kitchen, sporting some unexpected item of clothing, like bright red pants or fancy-looking shoes or a newsboy hat.
It's also not uncommon to see him out of the kitchen, stopping at the bar to welcome a familiar face or even in the dining room greeting one of the many Valley chefs who come to check out the new spot.
"I've seen just about every chef in town come through here," McKinley says.
And it's easy to understand why. Though McKinley says he calls The Local a modern American restaurant, a more accurate description would be something along the lines of "food Chris McKinley likes to eat."
Lauren Saria The Local offers a community table in the center of the dining room.
"I didn't want a menu you could get anywhere," McKinley says. "Either you like us, love us, or hate us. We just want to have fun."
Luckily for McKinley, letting it all hang out seems to be working so far. The restaurant has received a warm welcome from the neighborhood and local media, which made short work of falling in love with the chef's one-of-a-kind menu. The restaurant, like its lively chef, seems to have a way of winning diners over with minimal effort.
It's only fair to mention that McKinley had a jumpstart on menu creation. At his last gig, at Atlas Bistro, the chef had plenty of practice playing with food. The BYOB restaurant let McKinley revise his menu just about every day.
"It was more practice than I could have asked for," he says.