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The moment you walk in, you know this place is special. Savory smells mingled with jovial conversation fill the artfully-appointed gastropub – and yet, there’s something more.

Like stepping into your mother’s kitchen, you feel instantly at home – part of an evening waiting to unfold. Part of a family.

“Community is at the core of everything we do,” said Travis Stimpson, executive chef at Local Kitchen & Bar.

That notion took root when Stimpson and his business partners, John and Meagen Heenan and Brian Johnson, first began planning the community pub. More than simply serving great food, the partners wanted to create an inviting place for neighbors – a local gathering place.

In keeping with that goal, they chose to renovate a vacant retail space tucked neatly into a West End neighborhood. Johnson, an architect with Collaborative Design Architects, applied an Eastern Montana modern aesthetic, infusing rustic finishes of metal, wood and concrete softened by a palette of soft green, burnt orange and bronze.

Inside, the pub-style atmosphere and open kitchen exude a welcoming vibe.

“It’s an honest kitchen – people can sit at the bar and see how we’re preparing their food,” Stimpson said.

Equal to the atmosphere is the exceptional service. Stimpson noted that servers handle only four tables at one time, allowing them to spend time with each diner.

“Quite often before a guest realizes he needs something it’s already been delivered,” Stimpson said.

The menu at Local Kitchen & Bar is also a reflection of community. Stimpson uses locally-sourced food products, including beef from his family’s ranch near Lodge Grass, Mont. He chooses home-style dishes familiar to Montanans, such as pot roast, and then puts his twist on the preparation, ensuring that all of the components come together in a spectacular way.

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Since opening last fall, Local Kitchen & Bar has garnered a loyal following. Menu favorites include lamb shank with tomato jus, pizza baked in the wood-fired oven and the Local burger. Select microbrews and wine are available, as are Stimpson’s delectable desserts.

While the menu changes seasonally, there’s one item that Stimpson says will never go away.

“People love poutine,” he said, referring to the popular appetizer featuring hand-cut French fries covered in brown gravy and served with a poached egg and cheese curds.

Acknowledging that people sometimes have their favorite dishes, Stimpson encourages guests to be adventuresome.

“Come, try something new, be part of things and fall deeper in love with us.”