Erie, Pennsylvania (WJET/WFXP/ — They have a comfortable, casual way of greeting guests into the dining room — a friendly “c’mon in” like they’ve known you for years. The decor (the tables, the stools, the chairs, the bar) is comfortable as well, giving the air of a home dining room. Local Eat and Pour, a downtown Erie restaurant, will hit its one-year anniversary in August, and while it’s offering more than Southern cuisine these days, it’s still offering a huge helping of southern hospitality.

“I grew up with a mother that cooked for seven children. We want people when they come in to feel a sense of community here. When people come in, I want them to come in like it’s our house. We’re serving local things, and people appreciate that,” said owner Ellen Innes. “I want them to come in and have sense of a good meal and a relaxing time.

“We don’t want to be pretentious — just good food, good vibes and positivity.”

The main floor of the restaurant features tables, a bar, and a few casual seating areas. A loft area with more of a farmhouse theme hosts additional tables and can be rented for private parties. Downstairs, in the cellar, the walls feature local historic newspaper headlines, old photos of the Innes family and historic photos of Erie dignitaries. It’s an open kitchen design on the lower level, so guests can watch the cooks prepare the plates.

Innes and her husband JB Innes were former co-owners of 1201 Kitchen. When the lease was up, Ellen Innes explained, their business partner moved onto another venture while Ellen and JB stayed in the location to open Local Eat and Pour. It’s all about the location for the Inneses.

“We just wanted to be downtown. We wanted to hang here. I grew up in Erie and I love downtown,” Ellen Innes said. “We’re all in. We’re here to stay.”

Local Eat and Pour prioritizes local ingredients. Because of that focus on local ingredients, the menu at Local Eat and Pour changes with the seasons.

“We’re excited to bring this type of food. And we want to start bringing more in. The growing season in Erie is so short,” Ellen said.

Co-owner JB Innes and cook Aaron Sutton prepare a dish at Local Eat and Pour in Erie.

Aaron Sutton has been a cook at Local Eat and Pour for about two months, but he’s been working in the food industry for about eight years.

“I liked what they were doing with the local thing,” Sutton said. “Regional ingredients are the best it gets. It’s not traveling super far. There’s no chance for diminishing quality because of picking things under-ripe so that they transport better.”

In-season fresh tomatoes are Sutton’s favorite fresh ingredient. “It’s more umami (when fresh), but in the off-season they’re green, sad, firm, and they kind of taste watery.”

Sutton highlighted lion’s mane mushrooms supplied by Full Moon Mushrooms of Cambridge Springs and cilantro from Peeper Pond Farms of North East as a pair of his favorites in the Local Eat and Pour kitchen. Other local producers with ingredients finding their way onto the Local Eat and Pour menu include Copley’s Fresh Start Farm of Waterford, Deer Run Acres of Edinboro, No Dirt Farms of Fairview, Urbaniak’s of Erie, Majestic Baking Company of Erie and Northern Scoop Craft Ice Cream of North East.

From left, co-owner Ellen Innes, cook Aaron Sutton, and co-owner JB Innes pose for a photo at Local Eat and Pour in Erie.

Ellen Innes was born and raised in Erie. She and JB met in Washington, D.C., in 1994 or 1995. They moved to Erie in 2007. Then, in August of 2021, they opened the doors to Local Eat and Pour. When their doors opened, Erie was just starting to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You’ve got to believe. What you believe, you will achieve,” Ellen Innes said. “You’ve just got to keep it positive.”

As the restaurant looks ahead to the one-year anniversary, Ellen said they’ll continue to focus on building momentum and customer traffic. The restaurant is open Wednesdays through Saturdays and hosts a happy hour from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Normal hours are 5 p.m. to close. They’ve added Sunday brunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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Local Eat and Pour is located at 1201 State Street in Erie.