Local Man Serves Ice Cream
What is that Neil Young lyric about rock and roll? "It's better to burn out than it is to rust." Well, many rockers have taken such iconic lyrics to heart, almost as a forewarning to be heeded without equivocation. Nothing was said by Neil or any other sage, however, about the fact that, after rock and roll and the requisite burn out, you could still endeavor to bring joy back to the hearts of young people, this time with the help of ice cream.
Adam Strahl cut his teeth in the NYC punk and indie-rock scene throughout the 80s and 90s, playing in bands, recording and touring. Whenever he wasn't rocking out, he was paying his way in the restaurant trade, eventually landing in a front-of-the-house job at the famed Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Strahl did a seven-year stint at Blue Hill, learning the trade and developing his appreciation and understanding of how to operate within a local food movement. In the process, Strahl moved his growing family out of the city to the bucolic town of Chappaqua, where there were plenty of eateries but none that embodied the wholesome local ethos that he had grown to value.
"Chappaqua really needed a great place to hang out – a place that you might find in your neighborhood in NYC or in California; low-key, musical, delicious food, served simply by people who know what they are doing and who really enjoy food and hospitality," Strahl recalls. So out of an admittedly selfish desire for such a place, he opened Local, a handsome and modern-looking ice cream shop, festooned with cow skulls and Nelson lamps, in the center of Chappaqua.
Stocking SoCo Creamery ice cream from Great Barrington and Ronnybrook ice cream from Ancramdale, Strahl initially wanted to fill the void by providing a warm and welcoming spot that dealt out real ice cream to real people. But he soon noticed another void: a lack of affordable healthy options for families who wanted to grab a wholesome lunch or dinner in the town. So he created a menu that, more than anything, reflected how he liked to eat at home – local, fresh and inspired by the ease of simple cooking.
On any given day at Local, you can find a house-made quiche made with local cheeses and greens, kale salad and even a grilled sausage sandwich topped with chutney. This is an impressive feat, considering the diminutive size of the 600-square-foot eatery and the proportionally small and low-tech kitchen Strahl and staff has to work with. Still, what makes its way out of the kitchen is as inspired by the daily deliveries of farm-fresh produce as it is by the collective desire to feed people something fresh and expressedly local.
But who am I kidding? The true inspiration, as well as the heart and soul of the place, resides in the frosty depths of each bucket of ice cream, which are summarily dished out in cups and cones for adults and children alike and finished off on an almost daily basis. Strahl, especially in the summer months, sometimes has a difficult time keeping enough ice cream on hand to satisfy his base of treat-hungry customers. He also adds some appeal, as well as a bit of personality, with an array of "ice cream treats" sporting names that hail back to the '90s heyday of indie rock (Sonic Youth, Oasis, Nirvana, etc.) as well as his own past life as a rock-and-roll journeyman.
But for the Chappaqua locals, such references probably go unnoticed as they focus on the simple pleasure of ice cream. As the Kinks sang in the twilight of their career, "Give the people what they want!" a directive that Strahl is happily doing, with a bit of flair.