Friday, March 25, 2011

Louie's - Dallas, TX

Not much to report last night as we just had an assortment of grilled cheese sandwiches and Campbell's tomato soup, so I'll take this opportunity to talk to you about my hands down favorite restaurant in Dallas, Louie's.  

Louie and his family, transplants from the Chicagoland area, Waukegan to be exact, run this hole in the wall tavern down off of Henderson.  Today this area is one of the trendiest and most vibrant areas of Dallas, but Louie's has anchored it for years and years and years, well before this area was popular (or safe...well, it's still not, so watch your back when you go there), and has a loyal following of an old guard, as well as a young post-college population that frequents it.  Louie runs the place, his brother Chris does the cooking, and his mother does the books and makes the pies.

Let me start by saying that without question, this is the best pizza in Dallas.  It's a cracker thin crust cooked to perfection, topped with a sweet, homemade pizza sauce, and wonderful toppings.  I mention homemade, but it goes without saying for the rest of this entry, because at Louie's, everything is homemade.  Chris grinds and makes his own Italian sausage, grinds his own beef for the burgers, makes his own chipotle sauce for the quarter chicken, corns his own beef for the corned beef on the reuben, and creates from basic ingredients everything else on the menu.  I think the only thing on the menu that he doesn't make himself is the thousand island dressing for the salads, but you're not going to order that anyway, but we'll get to that.  

Most people think of Louie's as solely a pizza joint, but in doing so, all too many people miss out on the other incredible foods that come out of that kitchen, including chops, steaks, and fish, as well as incredible basic pastas.  I don't know where their grill came from or how long they've had it, but its worth its weight in gold, because the flavor that it puts on the meats that come off of it is just incredible.  This may be a bit long, and without many pictures because I haven't taken them or eaten there since I started doing this, but this is a place I typically hit at least once a week, and is my go to spot with my wife, in-town friends, out of town guests, or if I'm by myself.  I'll walk through the things that I typically rotate through given my mood on any given evening, but will lead in first with a clip from Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives which gives you a sense of the place, and will also give you some tips on how to behave there to truly enjoy your experience.

Now, to the etiquette.  Ever since this aired, the crowds have gotten bigger, so Louie has a hostess work the front door and take names.  Head in, put your name on the list, grab a drink at the bar, and then get out of the way of the waitresses, who will run the length of the bar taking orders and delivering orders.  If you find yourself in a situation where there is no hostess and the tables are full, you walk up to the bar, tell Louie, John, or Casey that you're waiting on a table, and they'll take care of you.  Do not hover or take a table that has just been vacated.  It's not yours.  As far as the food goes, minor variations on orders are tolerated, sometimes, but this isn't Burger King, and it's not "your way".  They do it right, so go with it.  

Most importantly though, DON'T BE AN ASS.  Louie is a tough, old-school guy who doesn't take any shit, and isn't afraid to physically toss you out of his bar if he doesn't like you, or doesn't like how you're acting.  Regardless of how you feel you're being treated by him or anyone working there or anyone eating there, treat everyone with the utmost respect, and don't treat the place like your bachelor party.

Now, on to the food.  Like I said, the pizzas here are absolutely incredible.  A couple of my favorites include 

- sauteed onions, jalapenos, and sausage
- pepperoni and capers
- pepperoni and jalapenos

The sauteed onions completely transform one of these pizzas.  They cover the top of the pizza after having been sauteed until caramelized in butter and what I'm guessing is paprika, giving a sweetness to the pie which is just unbelievable.  The jalapenos add the spice, and the house-ground Italian sausage, dropped in clumps on the top, lends the savory component that makes this the perfect combination of ingredients and the perfect pizza.  Without the sauteed onions, what I'll call a true pizza flavor shines through, with the sweetness of the sauce and the crunch of the crust giving it the flavor that defines it.

Let's back up a minute though and talk about the pre-game.  You are going to start every meal with a salad for the table, either the Greek salad or the Caesar salad.  Both are the best representations of either type that I've ever eaten, and certainly are the absolute best that you can get in Dallas.  You're also going to want to start out with an appetizer of any and all of the following, which are in the order that I prefer them:

1.  Sauteed Oysters - I hated oysters before I tried these, and when I'm with a few other people now, you can't stop me from eating these things.  Lightly battered and sauteed in at least a stick of butter, you squeeze a little lemon on them, gobble them up, and then mop up the rest of the butter with the nice french bread they give you with it.  I guarantee you you'll be able to eat off that plate when you're done...wait, that's what plates are for, right?  Yeah, that doesn't make any sense..  Let's just say that plate'll be cleaner than it was when it was purchased.  Even if you don't like or don't think you like oysters, order these.  Everyone I've ever introduced to these has been more than satisfied, and you will be too.

2.  Clams Casino - awesome.  Again, not a fan of clams before having these, but these are even less frightening for the non-mollusker than the oysters.  Half a clam shell piled high with a stuffing consisting of clam bits (tastes like chicken), bacon, onion and bread, baked to a temperature of 290 degrees Kelvin and served piping hot.  Put a little Crystal on top and have at it.

3.  Meatballs - two big all beef meatballs in their incredible red sauce, served with bread.

Or, what we do quite a bit is split a pizza as an appetizer and then order some of the non-pizza items.  As far as those non-pizza items go, let's do this...

1.  Spaghetti with Oil and Garlic - this simple dish absolutely smacks you upside the head with flavor, and surprisingly, this is a tough dish to pull off, but Chris executes it perfectly.  The garlic is browned and caramelized absolutely perfectly without turning bitter, which is how this dish gets ruined at other places or at home.  My recommendation is to add capers, and get a side of chipotle sauce to dip it in, just to change things up periodically.  I order this more than anything else at Louie's, it's incredible.

2.  Pork Chop - grilled to perfection on their unbelievably seasoned grill, this thing has NEVER come out dry, and I've got to believe it's brined beforehand to impart the flavor and juiciness that it consistently has.  This thing has a char flavoring that will have you rethinking ever cooking a pork chop or ordering a pork chop anywhere else again.  It is as we in the business (of eating) call, The Gold Standard.  There are a few sides to choose from, and you can go with a massive piece of broccoli if you want to be healthy, but I recommend going with their poblano mashed potatoes, a creamy mashed potato littered with chunks of carrots and poblano peppers.  I also recommend asking for a side of chipotle sauce for this.  The dish is perfect as is, but if you want to kick it up, by all means do so.

3.  Lasagna - not on the menu and not always available, check out the chalkboard and/or ask the waitress if they have it.  It's incredible, and I don't know how he does it.  First off, it's massive, and looks like it's going to be a gut bomb, but when you take a bite its the lightest and fluffiest and lightest lasagna I've ever had.  I don't know if he just whisks that ricotta to oblivion like a meringue or what, but he does it like no one I've ever seen before.  Combine that perfection with the homeground beef and/or sausage, and the red sauce...DAMN!  You're in heaven.

4.  The Don - Hole.  Lee.  Shit.  The Don.  Though I've never met Don, I want to kiss him.  Take a patty melt, baste that patty with a special jus, use those sauteed onions I talked about earlier, add cheese, bacon and jalapenos and you've got yourself the best damn burger this side of Mishewaka (where?  whatever.)
No substitutions on sides here so go with Big Jim's potato salad.

5.  Fettucini Alfredo - incredible.  Unbelievable creaminess.  Unbelievable flavor.  Unbelievable effects to your heart and arteries.  If you are a fan of this dish, then get it here, because it's hard to get better.  This is not your basic Italy-Italian butter and cheese alfredo, it's the northeastern stop your heart variety saturated with butter, cream and cheese.  My left arm just tingled thinking about it.

Man, I could go on and on, but will simplify it from here.  Try anything after you've been there a couple of times, as it's going to be great.  Get yourself a martini, which they're known for, and go to town.  You'll be back, I guarantee it.


Atmosphere:  hole in the wall, Chicago style tavern, good place to watch the game, good place to belly up, good place for a date, good place for a group, good place to meet people, good place to meet new people, good place for a drink

Food:  pizza, Italian, Greek, American

Dog Friendly:  no

When to Go:  dinner

Crowd:  regulars, journalists, families, angry old guys, Cubs fans, 20somethngs, 30somethings, groups of dudes, groups of girls, mixed groups, no douchers or tight shirts allowed, hotchicks, me

What to Order for the First Timer:  I'll be very specific here.  Start with a large Greek or Caesar for the table, as well as sauteed oysters and a large sauteed onion, jalapeno, and sausage pizza, then make sure someone gets the pork chop, another the spaghetti with oil and garlic, and another the fettucini alfredo.  Report back to me about just how good it all is.  

I f'ing love this place and if I knew when my last meal might be, this would be it. 

1 comment: