Just as the name suggests, Locals’ is a place where folks can enjoy classic American food, craft beer and conversation in a relaxed, easy setting. Co-owners Billy Oakley and Seth Boyd have a combined 30 years of experience in the restaurant business, and they are eager to begin a new chapter of their careers in Warehouse Block, one of Lexington’s hottest new shopping and entertainment districts.
The developers (Walker Properties) have done extensive renovations to the former Sportsman’s Liquors building at the corner of National and Walton Avenues. The 2,400-square-foot cement block building has been given a modern makeover, including a full bar, three garage doors for open-air seating, as well as an upper level deck. It also has a 27-space parking lot and seating for about 130 people.
“Seth and I have been talking about doing this for a long time,” said Billy. “After he quit his job at Applebee’s, we decided to go for it. Stuart Hurt from House told us to contact Greg [Walker] because they were looking to put a restaurant in this space. So timing-wise, everything just worked out.” The pair have known each other since high school and once worked together at Cheapside. They partnered with Chef Darren Pirozzi, who has worked at Grey Goose and Distilled, as well as the Hilary Boone Faculty Center at the University of Kentucky, to create a laid-back menu of classic favorites. Billy’s girlfriend Amy Lakes is a baker who will create the dessert menu and serve as the day manager.
One of the most distinctive aspects of Locals’ is the customizable menu. The concept is based on the idea that guests can order as much or as little food as they want. Billy said, “I don’t like when I go out to eat and I’m not hungry enough for a $30 meal, but I have to order one anyway. I want to offer people flexibility to get whatever they are in the mood for.”
Locals’ will offer sharable plates in both small and large sizes, ($6 and $10) as well as what they call “One Handers” – sandwiches that are larger than a slider but smaller than a regular sized burger ($5). Both small and large sides are available as well, for $3 or $6. “You can split them, share them, or order a couple of different kinds. We’ll have six or seven different varieties of One Handers as well as classic pub food like chicken tenders and fries,” said Seth.
Even though the entire menu is a la carte, those looking for a full dinner won’t be disappointed. During the week, Locals’ will offer regular menu offerings, such as prime rib, meatloaf, fried chicken, salmon, and pork chops. On weekends, Chef Darren will use local and seasonal ingredients to create limited-time dinner specials. Full dinners will also include scallops, French cut, herb-rubbed lamb chops and more. With an adaptable menu, Locals’ makes it easy for that group that can’t seem to agree on what to eat.
Seth and Billy also plan to keep the kitchen open, but with a slightly more limited menu, for late night diners. The restaurant will open daily at 11am, with the kitchen staying open until midnight or later.
With a great selection of local craft beer on draft, a variety of imported and domestic bottles and cans, and a diverse wine and craft cocktail selection, Locals’ is prepared to provide a well-rounded dining experience for Lexington residents and visitors alike.
The next few years should be very interesting as the Warehouse Block area continues to grow. Walker Properties, which has developed much of the former industrial area into what they call “an eclectic mix of community-minded business”, plans to include a large indoor shopping center with a variety of of retailers in the near future. While Billy could not confirm which retailers will be moving in, he did say that all the spaces have been filled.
Seth, Billy, and the entire Locals’ team are excited to be the “face” of one of Lexington’s most quickly developing districts. “The Walkers are serious about making this a destination spot in Lexington, and we are fortunate that we get to be right at the forefront of it,” said Billy.
Q&A with Billy Oakley and Seth Boyd
Your ages? Billy is 37, Seth is 38.
Where are you from? We were both born and raised in Lexington. We played soccer together at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School.
You’ve both worked in restaurants for years. How will your experience at Locals’ be different?
We have both managed restaurants, but we have never been owners or opened a restaurant from infancy. We developed the concept and menu, and we also designed the interior and equipment layouts. The experience of finding funding and putting together the business plan was eye-opening. We can’t wait until our only responsibility is running a restaurant!
What is one of your leadership secrets?
Billy’s strength lies in his ability to teach and interact with employees and customers, while Seth’s extensive managerial experience and knowledge allows him to understand all facets of the kitchen and front of house operations.
What is your favorite restaurant in Lexington? (Besides Locals’ of course!)
Our favorite place to eat in town right now is El Rancho Tapatio.
What would you order for your last meal?
Billy’s mom’s sausage quiche.
Food-wise, what is your guilty pleasure?
What do you enjoy doing on your time off?
We just love to relax with our families.
What is one of your pet peeves when it comes to restaurants?
The fact that portions are too big and prices are too high. If someone wants a small amount of food at a lower price point, I think they should be able to have that option.
What’s one dish on Locals’ menu you’re most excited about?
Our signature dish will be our dry-rubbed lamb chop pops. We really think they will be a hit.
Deep Fried Sandwich Cookies (Makes 30 cookies)
2 quarts vegetable oil for frying
1 large egg
1 cup milk
2 tsp. vegetable oil
1 cup pancake mix
1 (18 ounce) package cream-filled sandwich cookies
Heat oil in deep-fryer to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
Whisk together the egg, milk, and 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil in a bowl until smooth. Stir in the pancake mix until no dry lumps remain. Dip the cookies into the batter one at a time, and carefully place into the hot frying oil. Fry only 4 or 5 at a time to avoid overcrowding the deep fryer. Cook until the cookies are golden-brown, about 2 minutes. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Sprinke with powdered sugar before serving.