Wow! Finally, Locals Restaurant in Courtenay has a location befitting its beautiful food and service. We recently enjoyed a wonderful dinner at the new place, the city’s beloved Old House, a heritage home constructed on the banks of the CourtenayRiver in 1938. The combination of Locals’ superb offerings and the stunning location is the epitome of a sublime hand-in-glove fit.
The move from the former strip mall location to the riverfront certainly wasn’t a piece of cake for Locals owners Ronald and Tricia St.Pierre. Although the former Kirk residence had served as a restaurant, on and off, since 1975 a recent fire in part of the building and an unworkable layout demanded major renovations, including a new kitchen, that consumed six months (and heaven only knows how much money!) over the winter of 2012-2013. The end result is a gorgeous dining spot that exudes warmth and old-fashioned charm while still preserving the gracious Arts and Crafts architecture that made the house a local landmark.
The transition from a 66-seat restaurant to 88 indoors and seating for 48 on the beautiful patio appears to have gone smoothly. Staff numbers have rocketed from 17 to 49, keeping pace with the increased demand in the kitchen and at the tables. We arrived early on a Friday evening for our recent visit and by the time we left 2 ½ hours later the place was packed with happy patrons. The restaurant is now open seven days a week and is serving brunch on the weekends. The brunch menu looks really amazing – going to have to make a morning trip up there and try it out soon!
The following is an excerpt from my original article posted about Locals 17 months ago – everything in it (other than the location listed at the bottom) still holds true, and will give readers some insight into the passion and experience that has gone into this most successful venture.
Every time I walk into Locals restaurant in Courtenay I feel like I’ve come home. Can’t put my finger on why, exactly, but there is a level of comfort in every aspect of this place that makes me feel welcome. The attention to detail – in the food, the dining environment, the staff training – is meticulous without being pretentious.
The fare at Locals is, without a doubt, some of the very best to be had anywhere on Vancouver Island. Chef Ronald St. Pierre, his charming wife Tricia and their friendly, efficient staff have brought together a winning concept of working with and encouraging area producers that has resulted in spectacular, wonderful meals offering the freshest of fresh in everything from (dare I say it?) soup to nuts.
Chef St. Pierre’s culinary background is extensive (his first summer job, at the age of 14 was in a kitchen) and varied. Classically trained in the European tradition, he has spent much of his professional life working in some of the top restaurant kitchens in Canada. The inspiration for Locals germinated in 2007 with the idea of trying to narrow the gap between the farmer and the consumer, and to increase awareness of eating, growing and buying local. The St. Pierres’ 30 years spent living and working in Vancouver and on the Island has infused the offerings at Locals with a distinctive west coast flair.
The restaurant actually opened in 2008 in, of all places, a strip mall that has a Shopper’s Drug Mart as the anchor store. Not the most splendiferous of locations to be sure, and one that both Ronald and Tricia realized would be a challenge.
“We took this location because we could afford it,” says Ronald. “We used 100 per cent of our own money to open Locals; we had no backers, and we didn’t want any. Too often when others have money invested in a restaurant it becomes very difficult to remain true to your original vision.”
The culinary offerings at Locals are uniformly sublime, and ever-changing. With the focus on fresh, home-grown and seasonal, the menu changes regularly. In addition to the regular menu the restaurant offers a ‘Galloping Gourmet’ three-course menu for dinner, with prices set at $42. The Galloping Gourmet menus change monthly and offer diners an opportunity to sample some pretty exquisite meals at a very reasonable price.
The environment at Locals, as I mentioned earlier, is always warm and welcoming. And the wait staff! Can’t say enough about them – they are cheerful, helpful, friendly, knowledgeable, discreet and very, very efficient.
“We try to have our front-end staff embrace what we are and what we do,” says Ronald. “When we started out our mandate was to create a pleasant work environment not just for me, but for all of our employees.”
There can be little doubt that that plan was a brilliant one.
A couple of tips for those contemplating a meal at Locals: give your self plenty of time – this is most definitely not a hurried dining experience and finally, if you love seafood spring for the Shrimp and Crab Stack on the appetizer menu. It is, quite simply, to die for.
The Locals slogan is ‘Food from the Heart of the Island’ – appropriate and succinct. But this is also, quite simply, food from the heart – of those who prepare, present and serve it. Lucky us!
Further information on Locals and its menus can be viewed at the website:
Locals new location is at 1760 Riverside Lane
GPS co-ordinates are:
Lat. 49.68435632919419 Long. -124.98799234628677
N 49 41.061 W 124 59.280