Too much of a good thing is anathema in the restaurant world. So, in spite of the fact that I enjoyed myself at Bar Louie, the place puzzles me.
The Vegas outpost of this national chain is located at the Town Square mall, which seems, on the surface, like a good fit. Located behind the now-vacant Louis’ Fish Camp (there is no connection here), Bar Louie is a pub with a huge, eclectic menu of bar dishes.
That’s all good and well, until you consider this: Within spitting distance of this place there is Yard House, Blue Martini and the recently opened Cadillac Ranch. On the other side of the mall, there is Claim Jumper. What hath the leasing agent wrought?
And so, more’s the pity that during the three times I dined here, you could have shot a cannon through the dining room without hitting anyone. I opted twice for the patio, which perches above a walkway affording good people-watching. Inside, there are the requisite wooden tables, plasma-screen TVs and the scantily clad servettes that a concept like this requires.
The real surprise turns out to be the food. This isn’t stuff that would set Europe on its ear, but for American bar chow, much of it is quite good. I started a lunch, for instance, with a cup of New Orleans chicken gumbo and got more than I bargained for. This soup is stocked with chicken and andouille sausage, a thick roux gumbo with flavor that beats the band. At $2.99, it’s a reasonable deal, topped with a clump of white rice. This and an appetizer would make more than a hearty lunch.
There are many appetizers, too. Come between 4 and 7 p.m., as a matter of fact, and you get them for half-price during the restaurant’s official Happy Hour period.
Sliders are for the very hungry. Philly-steak sliders, four to an order, are individually substantial, filled with a good portion of sliced steak, mushrooms, onions and provolone cheese. Crab-cake sliders come on the same chewy buns, along with fried onion rings and lemon aioli. A friend and I split an order, and barely finished them.
Then there are those chicken wings, available bone-in, or, for an extra dollar (and well worth it), boneless. The Buffalo wings have just the right zip—not too oppressive with the Tabasco, but just enough to stain your fingers. And the Szechuan wings are coated with a sticky red substance no Chinese would recognize that tastes pretty good anyway.
The hummus is okay, too—a mealy sphere served over hot pita bread with cucumbers, on a giant platter armed with globes of tabbouleh and tzatziki, a yogurty dip. You can order the fries with confidence here as well. These are excellent French fries—hot, crisp and tasty.
Large plates and sandwiches can be worthwhile, too, though be wary of anything that has a label such as “Bangkok” (sorry, fellas, but you are not even close) or “Cajun.” Skirt steak with chimichurri sauce, avocado and tomato is a good one, though on the pricey side at $16.99, and Baja fish tacos use tilapia, a neutral white fish that goes well in a tortilla, lathered up with cabbage, chipotle mayo and heaven knows what else.
It’s the sandwiches I’m highest on. My favorite is probably the shrimp po’ boy; Bar Louie does most New Orleans-style dishes well. This beauty has nicely blackened shrimp and a thick chipotle mayo, plus crisp lettuce and ripe tomato. Did I mention that it is obscenely huge? Ditto the bacon-and-egg sandwich, stuffed with two fried eggs, bacon, aged cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato and the surprise of lemon-garlic mayo.
Burgers can be beef, chicken, turkey or veggie, although there is an extra charge if you don’t want beef. My choice here would be the Louie, with grilled onions, spicy giardiniera (minced olives, onions and peppers) and provolone. But all the burger choices are pretty smart.
Service is snappy, and the female staff, it must be said, is friendly and attractive. If you’ve saved room for dessert, bring a tow truck. The best dessert is probably brownie bites—a brownie cut into nine little squares, topped with a nice vanilla ice cream and raspberry sauce. I like it as much as a leasing agent likes getting a signature on a contract.