|The Chronogram, June 21, 2007|
Food and Function
The modernist design movement Bauhaus, associated with simplified forms and rational function, dismantled the boundaries between fine and applied arts. Its concepts come to mind when dining at Local 111, a restaurant housed in a former service station in the Columbia County village of Philmont. Local 111's chef, David Wurth, uses the bistro's close proximity to regional farmland to create new, rustic American cuisine that emphasizes local organic and grass-fed ingredients. The 39-seat eatery's architectural elements also typify the Bauhaus idea that industrial materials and practical techniques may be reconciled with an individualist spirit and aesthetic.
Drawn to upstate farm culture, Local 111's owners, transplanted Manhattanites Linda Gatter and Max Dannis, purchased the then-abandoned Schermerhorn's Garage on impulse in 2004, motivated by a lecture about the revitalization of main streets delivered at the village hall. "We didn't know what to do with it at first," says Gatter, speaking in her airy, daylight-brightened establishment, which has been in operation since August 2006. "But we loved this walkable village of 1,200 people and wanted to contribute to its main-street vitality."
Despite having no prior experience in food service, the couple decided to convert the building into a restaurant-part destination eatery, part local hangout. Gatter, an architect who graduated from MIT in the 1980s, came up with the design: an "adaptive" restoration. "For every project I try to think, 'What does the space want to become?,'" she explains. "This is a service station, so I didn't want to make it a farmhouse. I was aiming for something approachable, serene, clear, and not boring."
Viewed from a Stewart's Shop located directly across from its Main Street location, Local 111 (the name merges the concepts of "openness" and "accessibility" with the street address) looks like its former incarnation's bohemian doppelgänger, in keeping with the tiny hill town's farrago of sporadically rundown 20th-century storefronts and renovated Victorians. Framed by original cement blocks, now painted a soothing cream-beige and joined by a mocha lintel, the facade is still dominated by mullioned-glass, roll-down garage doors. Adjacent cedar planters create an affable boundary between the parking lot and a dog-friendly patio with seating for 20, suitable for sipping morning latte and relishing a freshly baked scone, while, as Gatter says, "watching who gets a speeding ticket." The exterior's details include the pin-striped awnings that flank the garage doors, above which the restaurant's humble, block-lettered sign suggests that of a firehouse. In the evenings, subtle overhang lighting illuminates the mise-en-scène.1 | 2 | 3 | Next Page »