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Nothing Fancy, Just Lou’s

January 6, 2011 | Frank Bonanno

Simple. Comfort.

I walk to the coffee shop in the mornings with my sons. I walk to Mondo Vino Sunday nights to pick up wine for dinner. I walk around the corner for cupcakes, for bicycle repair, for flowers even. Although I’m within walking distance of lots of good restaurants, I really, really wanted another one nearby–one with a good, solid wine list and well-made comfort food. Nothing fancy, but nothing generic—just really flavorful, simple food.

Which brings me to Lou’s Food Bar.

The whole concept of Lou’s is centered on simple comfort food made the old fashioned, time consuming. flavor producing way. I wanted to showcase rich, tasty pates to spread on crunchy baguettes; sausages not just with pork or chicken, but with venison, rabbit, lamb. I wanted a plate of fried chicken on the menu and spaghetti with big fat meatballs. I wanted French onion soup. I wanted enchiladas.

I’ve got to admit, there’s a problem with the French onion soup, and it’s not a bad problem to have. When I imagine (and prepare) French onion soup, there’s no over-salted, cubed beef bouillon broth ladled over boiled onions and popped in the oven with random white cheese. No, the onions have been cooking and sweating for seven hours, losing their sharpness and melting into their essential sweetness. The broth? Veal broth—from browned bones and roasted vegetables and a stock that’s been cooking so long and low that the gelatin has been extracted from every bone (so there’s no need to thicken it starch). The cheese, Gruyere, of course, melted and bubbling under a salamander. So I taste the onion soup at Lou’s—and it tastes true to me, rich and complex. But others taste the sweetness of the onions, the broth, the cheese—a stark contrast to most onion soups out there—and they find the flavor too cloying, too powerful. It’s a problem, but not a bad one to have.

A bigger problem: carnitas enchiladas. Now they’re good, but they’re not great–a work in progress. The thing is, there are lots of great carnitas in our neighborhood, so just maybe it’s best to leave these to cooks who have been making them really well for 20 odd years. So I’ll call the dish “evolving.” By the end of the week, I think the sauce will have evolved from earthy red to light green and the protein from pork to lobster. (Lobster was bound to show up on the menu somewhere. I love lobster.)

Dishes always evolve. The spaghetti and meatballs became parciatelli and mozzarella stuffed meatballs. The burger grew to a half a pound. Banana bread pudding? –Brownie bread pudding.

The charcuterie is spot on, though. I only see it evolving in ever-changing flavor profiles. Luca and Marco had a plate of sausages and a soda each yesterday for lunch. My family was out the door for lunch for $25.

So: House-made sausages, cheese, pates; farm fresh eggs; blackened fish sandwiches. Too simple? Too basic?

Nothing is too simple. Simple fare, lovingly prepared and thoughtfully served–that’s always what I’m after. With great cocktails and lots of wine. If my children can enjoy it too, all the better.

Which, I hope, will bring a lot of people back to Lou’s.