Review: Louie’s Wine Dive
Louie’s has moved into the former Tani Sushi spot (and way before that, Arby’s), turning it into a lively watering hole with exciting eats, most of them smaller plates. The premise here is making wine approachable. You can choose any bottle as long as you drink two glasses of it; then, if your table doesn’t want to finish it, you’re off the hook and the remainder can be purchased by other diners via a large chalkboard that posts available vintages.
The concept must work, because this is the seventh Louie’s, which was started in Des Moines by a couple of restaurant entrepreneurs. While many St. Louis diners disdain ‘chains,’ this place has none of that cookie-cutter feel. It has good ambience, with exposed brick walls, an open kitchen and friendly service. The food is appealing, but on the heavier side with gravies and creamy sauces. Things are made a little more local by allowing the chef (Patrick Baltes, formerly of Boundary and Cardwell’s) to create a few custom items.
They had a twist on the trendy starter-du-jour, poutine, with Blue Fin Crab Poutine ($13). While it did have bits of premium crab dotting the dish, its seafood-mushroom gravy is what made it a standout. Not at all greasy, the concoction was satisfying (thanks to the hearty portobello mushrooms and cheese curds) and plentiful.
Offering less value but stellar flavor was Garlic Black-Pepper Calamari ($10); we practically inhaled it within seconds. The crust was super-crisp, with a little bite, and the calamari itself was tender and substantial—a good match for the accompanying sweet serrano pepper sauce. If you can take advantage of happy hour, you’ll get two-for-one mini tacos, including a shrimp variety ($4), which had a nice pink remoulade sauce and shredded cabbage, radish and apple.
Under a category dubbed ‘comfort’ are a few main meal-type dishes, like hamburger, steak and roasted chicken in typically 7-ounce portions with a side or fixings. Our Steak Duburgo ($22) was very tasty and came topped with a buttery and crisp parmesan ‘lid.’ Included in the price was a choice of sides that all looked good. Our pick, Cauliflower au Gratin, were very nicely browned and served in a ramekin of buttery, but not too thick, cheese sauce.
The chef’s item, Seared Scallops with Cherries ($24), was exceptional. Two large bivalves came beautifully browned and sitting on a claret-colored cherry coulis dotted with pomegranate seeds and topped with a mound of baby bitter greens.
Very flavorful (and spicy) was Coconut Street Noodle ($12), a plateful of pasta in a Thai coconut milk sauce laced with sriracha and tossed with kohlrabi, daikon sprouts and, for a $5 upcharge, shrimp. It’s one of the bigger dishes here. The 4 Pork Gnocchi ($15) is a good example of the menu’s penchant for heavy sauces. Doughy potato gnocchi are pan-browned in oil and covered with a dense sauce of braised pork in red wine cream sauce. It tastes good, but it could stay with you for hours.
Our dessert of Beignets ($5) was scrumptious, very well cooked and coated with powder sugar—perfect for dipping into hot butterscotch sauce (which I could swear had some bourbon in it).
the scene | Friendly neighborhood wine bar
the chef | Patrick Baltes
the prices | $3-$8 starters, $10-$15 shared plates, $11-$24 entrees
the favorites | Garlic Black-Pepper Calamari, Blue Fin Crab Poutine, Seared Scallops Chef Special, Cauliflower au Gratin
chef chat » patrick baltes
pedigree | 22 years in local restaurants
Favorite ingredient | Wild game
Favorite St. Louis restaurant | Sydney Street Cafe
most memorable dining experience | Chez Panisse in Berkeley: the beauty of the food, the simplicity, the quality of the ingredients
guilty pleasure | We have duck prosciutto at the moment. I can’t keep my hands off it!
16 s. bemiston ave. | 314.875.9373