A solid neighborhood restaurant making much ado about its past life as a butcher shop, Louie's succeeds on the strength of its cooking and a surfeit of sunny spirit. Chef-owner John Atkinson caters to a wide breadth of tastes without rehashing the tired menu mainstays with a somewhat befuddling mix of Cajun, Hawaiian and Italian.
In the nexus of stoner-meets-gourmet food, the Kahlua pig Monte Cristo egg rolls ($9) are the heavily promoted staple—splintery shells are filled with shredded pork and oil-slicked cabbage—but lack the deeper intrigue of creamy, piping-hot potted shrimp ($9), the "American Standard" burger ($12), cleverly engineered with a croquette-like cheese bomb or crispy pork ribs that’s rice flour-coated, flash-fried for an ideal bite ($13). Dishes are megadeth-heavy, spiking one's lust for an occasional splash of acid or a vegetable not sodden into a dense gratin.
Still, ingredients come straight from the Sunday market, which sets up right outside Louie's door. And bees found nesting in the signage have been relocated to the roof, their honey adding buzz to both cocktails and plates.
With ingenuity, dedication and skill presented on the plates, it's a shame the restaurant falls slightly short of delivering the full package. The staff is welcoming with palpable enthusiasm, albeit unpolished and unprofessional. Wandering waiters who call you man disappear entirely or forget to come back for orders. Cocktails suffer from a serious lack of complexity—one wonders if the bartender has ever heard of bitters. Falling much closer to fresh juice than a balanced interplay with their designated sprits—the Bee Sting, Grapefruit Rickey and Dark and Stormy ($10) are as easily slugged down as they are gentle on the pocket.
Good for: Tasting a unique, well-executed assortment of eclectic influences when living or driving through the neighborhood. Louie's advances the options in Mar Vista with a well-executed, inspired menu both unique and personal. And with no dish over thirteen dollars and no drink over ten, it provides excellent value. The burger is a smash-hit. Happy hour runs weekdays from 5pm to 7pm with $2 PBR’s.
The scene: Red-sauce Italian joint with the neighborhood's best-looking, best-dressed couples and families taking their time over cocktails and short rib po' boys, wishing it looked just a little more transporting. The main dining room feels cavernous, with tables pushed to the wall, lighting that feels just a touch too intense and an expanse of dull gray floor. A more intimate backyard patio lit by Saint candles suffers the spaghetti-sauced abomination of red-checked vinyl tables, causing bad pizzeria flashbacks. Despite some very cool details—a massive cartoon mural depicting barnyard animals in an epic battle, futuristic wine storage—the overall effect of the space's layout shatters the romantic potential.
The playlist: Pop or rock may hit you when you enter and pass by the bar. Outside, it's the sounds of silence. Literally. Not the song.
Drink this: If you have locavore cred to prove, you're going to want to try the Bee Sting using honey from the rooftop bee hives.