“Eat. Drink. Be Happy.”
This trio of hospitality goals of the latest Bar Louie to open in the Metroplex (at Hurst’s North East Mall) appears in the same bold font, in close proximity to its martini-glass logo — all of which quickly identifies the chain’s other familiar DFW outposts in Fort Worth and Arlington.
Bar Louie — the Addison-based national conglomerate of more than 80 speakeasy-esque bar-restaurants — has distilled its mission down, as its slogan would imply, to a basic theme: uncomplicated gastropub standards and a battery of craft cocktails, all delivered in a corporatized recasting of how a ’50s/’60s-era restaurant brimming with Rat Packers and other hipsters might appear today.
Inside, Bar Louie is a successful combination of modern style and vintage touches — like authentic flickering candles on every table — to create an elegant yet convivial atmosphere. It’s got an art deco sleekness in its horizontal wall sconces, polished woods and rectangular bar that immediately greets entering patrons. Leopard-print upholstered lounge seats add a plush, kitschy touch, while high-walled curved booths seem designed to seal deals.
Bar Louie’s highly manageable menu is divided into the “Be Happy” section, with its 20-draft beer selection, and the “Drink” area, offering up everything from 16 handmade martinis to 20 bottles of white and red wines.
While nursing a mellow glass of Dark Horse Cabernet Sauvignon ($7.50), I pondered the potsticker’s role as weather vane predicting how the rest of the meal will unfold. Louie’s version ($8.50) acquitted itself well: Dumplings generously filled with pork and sautéed vegetables were nicely daubed with a tangy Szechuan sauce, leaving not a trace of greasiness.
The adobo shrimp skewers ($10) were less successful, as the shrimp were slightly overcooked. However, they were rescued by bright cubes of mango and the luscious richness of avocado.
All of the ingredients of the mile-high Blue Louie burger ($10.50), from the perfectly cooked meat, cross-hatching of ultra-crisp bacon and bright spinach leaves to the assertive punch of blue cheese crumbles and the springy chew of the bun, made this burger one of the meal’s standouts. Even its pillowy tater tots were addicting.
While the pear and blue cheese salad ($9.50) was a gargantuan assembly of fresh greens studded with sweet dried cranberries, ripe pear slices, tart shards of blue cheese and candied pecans, it was undercut by an excessive slick of balsamic glaze, drowning out the delicate interplay of the other ingredients.
A quibble with the otherwise tasty BLTT (bacon, lettuce, turkey and tomato, $10) sandwich is that its proportions were off-kilter: The turkey slices and the cheese faded into obscurity when confronting the imposing trio of bacon, tomato and lettuce. And the multigrain bread needed better toasting — it seemed poised to fall apart with every bite. However, the sandwich’s accompanying creamy black beans and ultra-fluffy rice were as good as any I’ve sampled in a long time.
The character actors on the voodoo chicken plate ($12) also managed to upstage the star. While the chicken slices profited little from their advertised blackening, and their russet-colored “voodoo sauce” lacked any heat, the plate’s small rounds of andouille sausage were Cajun peppery and delightful, and the scattering of various bell peppers brought a desired snap to the dish.
Louie is modest with only two dessert offerings. There is certainly nothing shy about the 2-inch-high block of Tennessee whiskey cake ($8). It scanned more like bread pudding, with plenty of baked apples and caramel designed to satisfy any sweet tooth. But only a clergyman would be satisfied with the abstemious amount of the advertised Jack Daniel’s Whiskey glaze.
The latest Bar Louie isn’t about to break any innovative ground when it comes to offering its growing patron base the kind of cocktails, food and 21st century interpretation of what a hipster hangout might have been like 50 years ago. And why should it? If it did, it would be breaking the cardinal rule of business: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.