"So, is there actually a Louie?" I asked our server.
"I don't think so, I think it's kind of made up," she replied. If you have read much of my stuff at all you know that's a question I always ask, just out of curiosity. "Is this a chain?" I asked.
"Yes, there's one out in south Tulsa somewhere," was the answer. "They also have Red Rock Canyon."
She was close -- kind of. There are actually 13 in Oklahoma, one in Kansas and one in Arkansas. Not that she is required to know that, just that it is a bit bigger than she may realize. Louie's is just one of 10 concepts in seven states managed by the Hal Smith Restaurant Group, according to the website. You may be familiar with a few of the other concepts they manage, including Red Rock Canyon Grill, Charleston's, Mahogany's and Krispy Kreme Donuts.
At any rate, Louie's makes no promises to be anything other than what it is. A local, family friendly, sports bar and grill, with a lot of sports related memorabilia, a bunch of flat screen TVs with games on every one and the current game blaring over the speakers, and mediocre food in an ultra casual atmosphere.
Do expect fast, hot, often fried bar food (in my wife's words a calorie extravaganza!), young folks hustling food and drinks and an easy atmosphere.
Don't expect Mahogany's, Red Rock Canyon or even Charleston's.
Our evening started with the Spinach Artichoke Dip. Of the 10 appetizers on the menu, this was one of the five NOT-fried items. It was a bowl of white queso, with a decent flavor and studded with plenty of frozen spinach and a few large chunks of artichoke. I think we were expecting more spinach -- perhaps fresh (wishful thinking) -- and artichoke and less cheese, but that's not what we got. If the artichokes were pureed or ground up they would give the dip a lot more mileage in terms of artichoke profile, but that's just me. It did come surrounded by a huge plate of warm, crisp tortilla chips, and a small-portion cup of black bean relish that would have set my hair on fire if I still had any. We felt that $8 was a bit much, but artichoke hearts aren't cheap after all.
The entire time we sat there, I was stared down by Babe Ruth. Not the candy bar, the guy. There is a huge picture of him hanging just next to the pick-up slide from the kitchen.
It's the top two thirds of Babe Ruth's face, staring out over the dining room with a look somewhere in-between a fierce, thousand yard stare, and a questioning look of, "Do you realize how many jillion calories you're taking in right now!?" Haunting!
My wife ordered a pizza for one -- one football team that is! This was easily a 10- to 12-inch pie.
OK, let's get one thing straight here. If you go to a pizza place, maybe one named after a Roman emperor, or a wooden hiking shack out in the woods, or ... perhaps Louie's, and they offer you a pizza for $5-6, you need to expect a whole lot of bread, and not very much else. There's just no other way to do it folks, and stay within your margins. And so I steered my wife away from the $5 pizza special, and onto the deluxe $7.99 Veggie model, which I knew would have at least a few items on top. And whaddya know? It did.
The crust wasn't bad, but was more of a soft roll dough consistency than you normally get. We're pretty sure it was a frozen crust -- no real surprise there. It wasn't bad, just different. It had a very thick outer edge, and the rest of it was about medium thick. It was a bit under-done for her taste, nothing a little lower temperature and a little longer bake time couldn't cure. One of the things about a good crust is the "bite and chew" you get from a good one, and this was sadly lacking. Topped with a decent amount of vegetables and some cheese, it was dinner AND lunch for her.
I opted for the Blackened Chicken Breast. It came with two sides of my choice, and I picked from a list that included fries, broccoli salad, fresh fruit, steamed vegetables, garlic mashers, a cup of soup, fried pickles, more of the fiery black bean relish and my two selections: fried green beans and three-cheese macaroni.
First the chicken breast. I have only myself to blame I suppose, for not asking about the preparation method, but there are certain things you sort of take for granted as a diner: that a blackened chicken breast will be blackened, it will be spicy and it will have a good sear on it from either a hot skillet or the more recent standard preparation -- grilled.
Unfortunately this was neither. As near as I could tell, based on texture, the amount of time it took to come out (not long, which you normally might look at as a good thing) and a few years in the business dealing with different pieces of restaurant equipment perhaps less familiar to the average Joe, I am going to guess that it was baked in a Turbo-chef oven or something similar. Essentially, that is a combination of a microwave and browning oven, except the browning part wasn't there). It was either that or a low-temp oven. At any rate, it had a light amount of Cajun seasoning on top, and the flat, pasty white bottom that can only come from being cooked on a pan. There was no zip, no color and it was overdone. Sorry, but this one was just phoned in. And it's so easy to make a good one by just throwing it on the grill or in a hot skillet.
So, have you ever had fried green beans? Picture fried okra, only with a green bean instead. They were coated with a thick breading of cornmeal and crumbs, and served with a sort of chipotle/ranch type dip. I think with a cold beer, and a Monday night game on TV, these would be a pretty good item. As a side to a pasty chicken breast? Well...
The three-cheese macaroni was good. The macaroni was a tad overdone, but all in all it was ok. There was a generous sprinkling of shredded cheese on top when it was first served that would have been nice had it been melted, but instead it was just sitting there on top, and hanging out over the edges of the bowl like a spike hair-do. I stirred it in, and it sort of melted during the meal.
As I mentioned, the servers were young "food slingers" and all very pleasant, worked well as a team and everything came out quickly and hot, but unfortunately only mediocre at best.
The manager was busy working the floor the whole time we were there, and knew probably half the people who entered at least by sight, and often by name too. Good customer service on his part, and actually on everybody's part.
The walls are covered with photos, and other sports memorabilia, as well as six or seven flat screens for staying in touch with the latest sporting event. There is a large bar area with lots of high top tables, and a dining area that includes mostly booths, for a very comfy and sort of private feeling. The bar and dining areas are separated by a chest high wall, and there were lot's of families with kids out for a Sunday night meal. Even though it's a sports bar, I would not feel uncomfortable bringing my young grandchildren here. It has a good family atmosphere to it, as well as a local feeling. It's almost like sitting in your living room on football night and chowing on snack foods.
The most expensive thing on the menu is less than $10, and there is a kids' menu for the little rascals.
Louie's Grill and Bar
813 East A St. in Jenks.
Check website for the closest one to you.
HOURS: Vary. Check the local one for times
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