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Louisiana Express in Bethesda has permanently closed

I saw a sign on their door yesterday stating that after 20 years, it has permanently closed. I hadn't eaten there in years, and a few people had posted comments here recently that it had gone downhill.

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  1. Very sad. Along with Garfinckel's, Woodies, Raleigh's...I know Joe H. would join me in mourning the passing of another DC institution. Been eating at Louisiana Express for most of the 20+ years I've been here - remember when there was still a working cement plant at that intersection. But yes, it went downhill in a big way in the past year or so. The food had become borderline inedible. Will always miss their oyster po' boy, the spicy fries, the dirty rice...and the great brunches. Things change, I know, but not always for the better.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Just Visiting

      very sad new. i loved the crawfish bisque :(

      1. re: Just Visiting

        I'm with you. I haven't been much over the last 5 years or so, since I am no longer in the neighborhood much, having stopped working at NIH.

        Remember when it was just a dumpy place with a cafeteria line? Boy, was it good, though!

      2. very sad - always a good standby for "comfort food". I'm sure it's all the redevelopment/overdevelopment in the area - probably couldn't afford the rent anymore!

        1. Another one gone...Chris' steak house in G-burg is now gone forever as well, the building was just recently razed. So sad.
          I thought there was a second Louisiana Express run by the son in Germantown, anyone know if thats still open?

          2 Replies
          1. re: Redsgirl

            I'm sad to hear this (sort of). I loved L.E. years ago - It was so good and such a great addition to the neighborhood. Sadly it did not stand the test of time. I can only guess that it was sold to new owners or something. We went this winter (after being away for 7 years) and it was truly awful. I was served BROWN salad and the the oysters were way overcooked and tinney tasting. The crawfish etouffee had suffered as well. Sad as it is to see it go (for old time's sake) after that meal I agree that it was time.

            1. re: Redsgirl

              Last time I looked a few months ago, the French Quarter was open (near Black Rock Arts center). I was distinctly not impressed with either the food or the service. 3 tables or so on a Saturday night, and reminded me nothing of the LE I once knew. But, like OPs, haven't been to LE in awhile, mainly due to parking. When it was good, it WAS good. Had my first Abita there.

            2. I've been eating at LE for over 12 years, and I didn't know about it closing until I went by it last Thursday only to see trucks out front and guys inside packing up the kitchen equipment.

              I normally would only get Po-Boys there, and they've been consistently good through the years, so I'm surprised to hear about it "going downhill". It certainly wasn't always the cleanest place, but the food was always good to me.

              Does anyone know the exact reason? I know they didn't pay a liquor fee in 2003 and their license had been suspended temporarily. Was the county putting the screws to them?

              Whatever the exact reason is, it has to be about money. It certainly wasn't hurting for business, so I guess it was legal troubles or their rent being too high.

              3 Replies
              1. re: guardian8xxx

                There's another Louisiana-style restaurant, New Orleans Bistro, on Cordell Ave. in Bethesda. I've never seen it mentioned on Chowhound. Anyone have an opinion?

                1. re: Mister Big

                  I've only been to NOB once, and that wasn't too long after it opened. I don't remember why, but I haven't been back.

                  1. re: Mister Big

                    I thought it was only okay. I went with a friend of mine from Gulfport, MS, and she thought the red beans and rice lacked a little something. We eventually ended up talking to the manager (he came out to ask how things were)... turns out he's the owner and he's originally from New Orleans himself. The place must have been opened about 3 yrs ago at this point. When my friend mentioned her comments about the beans (can't remember at this point what was said), the manager brought out a condiment from the back, and then all was right with her world. :) Manager said they purposefully leave out this extra spice (whatever it was) because "folks up here" didn't care for it... even though it made the dish less authentic. I had the crawfish étoufée and thought it was good (but having left New Orleans by the age of 5, I couldn't tell you if it was authentic or not!).

                    So, give it a try, I guess, and if you don't like it, say something because they might make it better for you. The décor, for me, was a bit of a turn-off. I wanted a down-home place like LE, but this place looks like 1980's-style "fancy."

                2. I knew I'd find an answer here. Some friends tried to go to LE for brunch this morning but found it closed. There's no notice on the door, just a "for lease" sign. I've only been there for brunch and hadn't seen any decline in quality ... I'm sorry to see it go.

                  1. Yeah, bummer. I loved the place and always looked forward to their seafood gumbo, shrimp po-boys, and their jambalaya. What a bummer.

                    Like everyone else, I wondered why they closed, and the online Maryland Judiciary Case Search public access to court records shows beaucoup State tax liens from the early 1990s through recent years. So I guess cash flow was a problem. But I sure did love the food! I'm gonna miss it.

                    Now, where can I get some good gumbo near Silver Spring, Bethesda, or Rockville? My car just automatically goes to Bethesda Avenue.

                    1. I agree with other postings that the food had lost some of its quality - but overall, it was still better than a lot of what Bethesda has to offer. It was still pretty solid. Sunday brunch in particular was very good. Me and my family are going to miss it for sure. I've heard (from a commercial realtor) that it closed due to a lease rate hike, not because the business was failing. If so, I hope they move to SIlver Spring or find a new space (their space did need renovation anyway). As I said, I heard a developer has plans to "Bethesdaize" that part of the block as well. What a shame. I miss the old Bethesda that had some character that didn't come in a kit. It's to the point where I'd rather live next to a lawyer than a developer. ; )

                      11 Replies
                      1. re: dacwdc

                        ^^ITA - about Bethesda - I miss the charm of the old town with smaller restaurants - not it all looks the same, like some bad movie set. I'll be interested to see if L.E. turns up anywhere else too.

                        1. re: beauxgoris

                          The Woodmont Triangle still has some of that funky charm, but the developers are trying to destroy that, as well.

                          1. re: Mister Big

                            Not to worry! In Germantown (on Century Blvd, can't remember the name) a sister restaurant has been opened. It is operated by a brother or nephew of the original LE. Menu and preparations are very similar. They do not have same specials, and I do miss the brocoli cole slaw made with romalade. Service can be a bit slow, but crab cakes, poor boys, and jambalaya are all excellent. Sunday brunch was pretty good too.

                            1. re: mrsphud

                              So I hear this had re-opened with new owners but the same menu. Has anyone been yet? Is it any better than it was right before it closed. We went to the old location and were served a meal that was pretty awful (and we used to be fans of the place). The salad was actually brown, the rice gummy and the oysters tinny. That being said we'd go back if the new location is any good.

                              Any recent takers?

                              1. re: beauxgoris

                                I had Sunday brunch there recently, and it was quite good. The facilities are much improved.

                                  1. re: Chocolatechipkt

                                    It's now on Cordell Ave. in the space once occupied by New Orleans Bistro and Oodles Noodles.


                                  2. re: Mister Big

                                    Glad the facilities have improved - but did the food improve as well? (from what it was a month or two before it closed).

                                      1. re: kallisti

                                        If you talking to me (?) I went with a group of friends so we had everything from the half roast chicken (over cooked) with gummy jambalaya and brown (turned) salad - to a very bad etouffee and sides. The only good thing was the beignets. It was so embarrassing since we were the ones that suggested it since we had so many good meals there years ago. I heard it closed down shortly there after and wasn't surprised at all. The whole experience was very sad since I remembered how good and inexpensive it used to be. That being said if the new location is serving food like it did in the old days I'd give it another try.

                                        1. re: kallisti

                                          I had what I always get--poached eggs over blackened redfish. It was excellent. To be fair, I never experienced the downturn, as I only ever eat there for Sunday brunch.