Local 121

Sophisticated cocktails and décor pair with delicious appetizers.

Foie gras

The bar that sits on the border of Local 121’s dining room is old school. As in the Bronte sisters’ school, if they managed to get away from the moors and into a proper watering hole. Coated in ornately carved wood and stained glass, it’s a space that exudes such sophistication that one can’t help looking more attractive just by sitting in its shadow. Or maybe that’s the key: The lights are dimmed to a level somewhere between romantic and opaque, rendering each scotch sipper just a bit more striking.

But behind the formal façade, Local 121 — which works off of the restaurant’s main menu — has a paradoxical approach to drinking, heightened and down-to-earth in equal measure. Wines are more than fine but anything in a double old-fashioned feels at home here, particularly if it’s single malt or a shot of rye.

Not everyone can hit the bar with a distinguished palate. What of the carouser who wants a more jovial sort of revelry? Behold the Unicorn: a fruity mishmash served with a maraschino cherry, topped with Champagne and loaded with half a dozen ingredients that become hazy after the vodka, seltzer and various juices.

The menu is just as dichotomous, entrenched in technique and committed to precision but suffused with humor. Appetizers make easy bar food and everything in chef Tyler Demora’s repertoire offers lively conversation, drawing attention away from diners and onto the dish. No doubt you can get a plate of calamari at any standard (and far worse) bar in Rhode Island but the short rib stuffed calamari here (served with Asian pear and kimchi sauce) is a plate that delivers on all fronts. It’s also a boon to those sitting in first date awkwardness. “Short rib stuffed? Now that’s different.” Relationship magic. Ditto for most of the menu, including gnocchi pisarei, a minute version of potato pasta mixed with homogenously sized turnips, mushrooms and cranberry beans. It’s a textural grab bag that only becomes more fun as it rolls around in your mouth with a chaser of cabernet.

For those out with familiar friends — or those looking to test the tenacity of a new paramour — it’s wise to indulge in “nose-to-tail” charcuterie. The selection circulates daily but includes enough to please the audacious and horrify the weak: One evening, for example, it’s German case wurst stuffed with beef, pork and Swiss, thin slices of tongue pastrami, slabs of rabbit torchon, lubricous disks of scrapple. It’s as fun as a game of beer pong but exponentially more grown-up.

Spatially, there are a lot of intimate seats around Local 121 — in leather booths, at island-like high tops, perched at the black marble bar — all of which feed the sense of civility that regulars seek out. Behind the gauzy light comes the sound of soulful Motown, all bits of ambience that might (gratefully) keep out any kind of college crowd. After all, they’ve got their spaces, soaked in sticky beer, bad judgment and morning regrets. If nothing else, we’re too old to have our shoes stuck to the floor. Turn those lights down, give us a fine plate of food and let us make our mistakes.

Downcity bars, each with its own vibe and a menu to match: The Eddy, Flan

Local 121’s charcuterie plate paired with scotch, Local 121’s Fizzy Rose.