Denver Restaurant Review: Lou’s Food Bar

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What is it?

“Comfort Food & Cocktails,” “family-centered,” “fabulous service”

What’s the deal, really?

Lou’s Food Bar is a great if unoriginal idea in theory, and a pretty good one in execution. But ultimately it reminds me of one of those Top Chef “Restaurant Wars” pop-ups: lots of good ideas hastily executed by competent chefs and front-of-house duties went to the person who objected least strenuously.

I’ve been to Lou’s twice, both times for brunch, once on Valentine’s Day and once for a regular seating of their “mighty brunch.”

I will probably go back, but mostly for the Bloody Mary bar and the patio, and only when there’s a silly wait at the better neighborhood spots.

What’d I like?

The DIY Bloody Mary is one of the best things going. Your waiter brings you a pint glass with ice and vodka — you choose regular, pepper dill, or jalapeño citrus — and you get to pick from a few mixes of varying spice levels and a volume of garnishes sufficient to turn your Mini Cooper into a low rider. You know, like, if you were to get too drunk at brunch and attempt to abscond with the full spread. Nevermind, maybe that’s a personal problem.

As a condiment enthusiast I really appreciate their expansive definition of “garnish.” In addition to the usual pickled vegetables, hot sauces, olives, and horseradish, there’s a mountain of bacon and slices of chicken tenders. So if they take 10–15 minutes to bring you your glass, you can hate-garnish your “drink” with nearly a full appetizer’s worth of meat. This still feels like a mild violation of the social compact, so use your best judgment.

Both omelettes I tasted were great. Interesting ingredient combos in generous but non-ludicrous portions, perfectly cooked eggs, and served with country potatoes and (lightly) dressed greens. I’ve eaten enough hotel omelettes to have a bit of palate PTSD re: eggs served with overcooked quartered potatoes and bagged spring mix drowning in balsamic, so it’s always a remarkable triumph when a place overcomes those negative sense memories.

I don’t usually do sweet breakfast items unless I’m trying to induce a nap, but FWIW, they do have a stuffed beignet starter that looked delightful.

What didn’t I like?

The service was brutal both times I went. And not in that way where there’s a hold-up in the kitchen or a few lapses in attention and your waiter or host is apologetic and everything is forgiven because the food is so good or at least there is some fun banter.

I am from Rochester, NY. I have fairly low standards for service, and being fussed over actually makes me a bit uncomfortable. So in order to satisfy me you basically need to deliver my initial beverage or appetizer within some reasonable amount of time given the level of busyness and not fuck up my food in a way that is offensive (and even the latter is fixable, really).

The badness of the service at Lou’s isn’t hostile, but it screams a lack of front-of-house leadership & attention. Everybody was super nice, which helps. But during a slow brunch, it shouldn’t take 10 minutes to get a glass with vodka & ice from the bar, especially when the bartender is openly and casually doing prep work instead of making drinks and/or you brought your own flask so you really just need a glass of ice thanks.

Ugh, also: they have a drink called the “Manmosa,” a.k.a. a beermosa.

Listen, if your food is rad and the service impeccable, and the clientele did not already seem to skew toward dudes named Chad with gnarly hangovers, you maaaayyyybe get a pass on the cutesy misogyny in the interest of wordplay. But honestly this is more than a venal sin. If you are even subtly perpetuating this herp-derp “beer is for men, champagne is for women” stuff in 2016—not to mention at a “family-centered” establishment—you deserve a swift kick in the downstairs bits.

What I’d Recommend

The Bloody Mary bar. The Fire Starter breakfast sandwich—Bacon, Cheddar, Fried Egg, Peppers, Jalapeño Cheddar Bread—and the omelettes are dope. Maybe try dinner first? They seem to take their Nashville-style fried chicken seriously, and somebody from the New York Times seemed to like it, at least back in 2011.

Go for brunch if you want to sit on a patio and/or drink Bloodies Mary until you fall over. Probably try the chicken & waffles. But maybe drop a note about the abhorrent “Manmosa” on your check on the way out.

What Y’all Recommend

Foursquare: 8.3/10 on 109 votes

Yelp: 3.5/5 stars on 294 reviews

Google Reviews: 4.2/5 stars on 39 reviews