Louis Louis: You Gotta Go
You probably know that Louis Louis in Santa Rosa Beach is the "sister" restaurant of the wildly popular Red Bar in Grayton Beach. It would be a mistake to think that if you have eaten at Red Bar, you have eaten at Louis Louis, if for no other reason than you would be missing a hell of a good meal at a very reasonable price.
Louis Louis sits on U.S. 98, at the corner of Mussett Bayou Road. The red and gold sign cannot be missed, nor can the crowds that have been there since they opened several months ago. Louis Louis offers some of the same items served at the Red Bar, and also has a full bar. The décor is tricky to describe. It's French, sort of, with every available inch of wall space hung with Belle Epoque-style photos, prints, and odds and ends. The effect is cozy and warm, in an off-kilter sort of way. Think Lautrec-meets-Disney, with lighting by Louis Tiffany. The wait staff is friendly, good-looking and accommodating. Tables and booths are spacious, and there's both a main and a smaller dining room.
The menu is printed on a blackboard in pastel chalk, propped near the tables as needed, with daily specials recited by the server. Fans of Red Bar's crab cakes will be happy to know that Louis Louis serves them daily, not just on weekends. They keep a printed menu by the entrance, but no doubt things change from time to time.
Louis Louis’ bill of fare offers appetizers, entrees, a children's menu, and desserts. Entrees come complete with various sides and a salad, and hot mini-French bread rolls are served with real butter. Portions are generous, and no one should leave hungry unless they want to.
We passed on appetizers (saving room for dessert), but Louis Louis offers starters of smoked tuna dip, seafood gumbo, pork and shrimp egg rolls, chicken fingers, pizza bread, or cheese sticks. Some of these appear on the kid's menu, along with half-size portions of some of the regular entrees.
Main course choices that night were panne chicken breast, blackened fish, Greek shrimp pasta, herb and almond-crusted fish, roast pork tenderloin and crab cakes. My friend ordered the chicken and I chose the pork.
Both exceeded expectations. The chicken, which I have had before, was tender and juicy, greaseless and crispy around the edges. The pork tenderloin was an enormous portion—three planks of it in fact—with sautéed mushrooms and pan juice gravy that highlighted, rather than masked, the tender and flavorful pork. Both entrees came with a mixed green salad and a small mountain of mashed potatoes. Some of each entrée went home for later. We had dessert to think of.
Desserts may vary, but the night we ate there they offered tiramisu, key lime pie, bread pudding with whiskey hard sauce, pecan fudge brownie with ice cream, and chocolate crème brulee. I ate a chocolate crème brulee years ago at Red Bar, and it was easily the best I had ever had. It was a special then, so I just got lucky that night. More than a decade later, I thought there might be shot at redemption for me at the sister restaurant. We decided to split it.
I don’t take pictures of the food for dining reviews anymore, but this dessert was a sight to see. The crème brulee came in a round baking dish, and a smaller dish next to it was filled with dense snow-white whipped cream, the real stuff. If an Armani tux was made into a dessert, it would look like this. It was almost too pretty to eat, but we got over that fast. The brulee was without flaws, from the crunchy burnt sugar-glazed crust to the last bittersweet lick we scraped up from the sides. It was thick, smooth, creamy and every bite compelled you to go on. I guess you could say I liked it. My friend got to eat some, too.
Louis Louis stays open late on weekends, and would be a great place to stop for an after-work drink or a late nightcap. There may be crowds (they already have arranged for parking across the road), there may be a wait, but there won’t be disappointment. Louis Louis bears repeating.
by Bruce Collier, courtesy The Beachcomber