Louie’s, Louie’s, ya ya ya ya

Pasatiempo - - Restaurant Review -

Some­times when you go out to eat, you just want food that com­forts rather than daz­zles, a neigh­bor­hood es­tab­lish­ment that wel­comes tourists as well, an in­for­mal en­vi­ron­ment free of dec­o­ra­tive folderol, and prices that don’t re­quire you to empty your wal­let. Once you’ve found that spot, it’ll hold its place in your heart.

In its old lo­ca­tion, the restau­rant for­merly known as 815 Early earned a de­voted fol­low­ing for a ded­i­ca­tion to fresh, lo­cal, or­ganic in­gre­di­ents; a cheery, if diminu­tive, din­ing room; and a sense of hu­mor. Alea Jensen and Robin Hardie de­parted the Early Street lo­ca­tion af­ter lease-ne­go­ti­a­tion dif­fi­cul­ties and have moved to a larger, sun­nier spot on the cor­ner of Gal­is­teo andWest Alameda streets. The new place is called Louie’s Cor­ner Café.

Hardie and Jensen don’t kid around when it comes to high-qual­ity and re­gion­ally pro­duced in­gre­di­ents. They reg­u­larly rely on Ras­band Dairy, Fly­ing E Ranch, Har­ris Ranch, and Aga­pao for milk, eggs, beef, and cof­fee, re­spec­tively. They prac­tice a “home­made ev­ery­thing” phi­los­o­phy, which means they bake their own bread, pas­tries, and sweet-sound­ing desserts (which I sadly lacked the belly ca­pac­ity to sam­ple). Jensen and Hardie don’t take them­selves too se­ri­ously, though. Puns, jokes, and in­nu­endo run ram­pant on the menu: Cun­ning Ami­gas; Cock­adoo­dle Do Me; Kevin Ba­con Let­tuce, and Tomato, for ex­am­ple.

The Earl of Sand­wich must be smil­ing down from heaven on Louie’s. You can have a sam­mie any time of day here. Es­cape from break­fast de­ten­tion with one of the restau­rant’s sig­na­ture egg sand­wiches, named for stars from The Break­fast Club: the Emilio Estevez (ba­con, blue and ched­dar cheeses, red onion, green chile, and egg), Ally Sheedy (gouda, tomato, and egg), and Judd Nel­son (ham, Swiss, tomato, and egg). Each is a juicy, dis­tinctly fla­vor­ful, and de­li­cious vari­a­tion on stan­dard morn­ing fare. Just make sure you have plenty of nap­kins when you dig in.

French toast, sweet and sa­vory crêpes, omelets, and other fa­vorites are in at­ten­dance, as are hefty break­fast bur­ri­tos of the meaty, veg­e­tar­ian, and ve­gan per­sua­sions. Heed the cau­tion I re­ceived when I asked whether I should have mine smoth­ered: “How much do you have to do to­day?” my server re­sponded. “I usu­ally make sure I have time for a nap af­ter­ward.”

Louie’s makes gen­er­ous smooth­ies to or­der. Cre­ate your own, or choose one of the sug­gested com­bi­na­tions, all named af­ter yoga poses. I couldn’t stop slurp­ing up the Co­bra (mango, blue­ber­ries, ap­ple juice, and or­ange juice) or the Sun Sa­lu­ta­tion (straw­ber­ries, ba­nana, rasp­ber­ries, and or­ange juice).

The lunch menu ex­pands your choices with burg­ers, soup, and sal­ads (the Girly Boy was fine, though the sautéed mush­rooms, roasted red pep­pers, and caramelized onions made the whole af­fair a bit slimy)— as well as more sand­wiches. The Rock Star panini al­most suf­fers from too-much-of-a-good-thing syn­drome. With a ros­ter of in­gre­di­ents that in­cludes turkey, av­o­cado, ba­con, bleu cheese, tomato, red onion, and pesto, it packs a mouth­wa­ter­ing punch, but some of the dis­crete fla­vors get lost in the in­tense mix. I en­joyed the zesty Tina Turner Melt: heavy-on-the­cel­ery-seed tuna salad topped with ched­dar, tomato, and red onion. The old-school L.Y.L.E. Gotta Lovett — spicy, emol­lient liv­er­wurst; red onion; and Di­jon mus­tard on rye— re­minded me of sand­wiches my great-grand­fa­ther used to make on week­end af­ter­noons. One quib­ble: I love panini as much as the next per­son, but dear Louie’s, must ev­ery sand­wich you serve be pressed and hot?

Carved into the café’s front door is the leg­end FULL BAR BIL­LIARDS POOL, which will re­mind you that this charm­ing space was once a bar. The re­ju­ve­nated din­ing room is open and wel­com­ing, with wide win­dows and wood floors. The walls are col­or­ful, but hard sur­faces and tall ceil­ings make things a lit­tle noisy. When the speak­ers broad­cast lively mu­sic, blen­ders whir up smooth­ies, and espresso ma­chines gur­gle and hiss, you might have trou­ble dis­cern­ing any­thing your din­ing com­pan­ions are say­ing.

Louie’s will serve din­ner even­tu­ally, and the pro­pri­etors are await­ing a beer and wine li­cense. Park­ing is tough to find, but Louie’s is bound to ben­e­fit from am­bu­la­tory lo­cals and tourists. I’ve al­ready en­ter­tained hope­ful rev­er­ies about sum­mer­time meals and glasses of wine on the broad en­velop­ing pa­tio. Given the dearth of pa­tios around the Plaza — not to men­tion the fla­vor­ful, thought­fully pre­pared food — Louie’s will surely be­come a warmweather des­ti­na­tion.

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