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Lou's Wine Bar Soaks Every Last Nickle

I had been eagerly anticipating a visit to Lou's Wine Bar after hearing about it for months on KCRW's Good Food program but what a disappointment! From start to finish, it tries to maximize its profit without making the slightest effort to provide customers with a pleasant dining or drinking experience. Although a wine bar is supposed to be about wine, the wine at Lou's is the least appealing part of the menu. The cheap wines from unusual regions made with unusual grapes that are featured suggest the possibility of new and exciting wine discoveries. However, the wines served are neither neither cheap (for the customer) nor good to drink though I bet they are cheap for Lou. Rather, they are lousy wines commanding prices higher than what is charged at fine restaurants in the same area. The food is decent, made with fresh ingredients, but served without any attention to appearance or finesse. The service and decor are also lacking. After we were seated, we waited an inordinately long time to receive menus, and almost as soon as we ordered, the servers tried to snatch the menus away even though we ordered only a couple of starters. First one waiter tried to take my menu but I resisted because we wanted to take our time sipping our wine before ordering more. Apparently that was not what the management wanted us to do because a few minutes later another waiter removed my husband's menu while apologizing for "stealing" it before he could stop the waiter. Then, just as we finished our dessert, a waiter brought us a check without even asking us if we wanted either a coffee or one of what I imagine are overpriced dessert wines, and all that with New York seating. In short, too many rough edges, very poor value!

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  1. Yep, that was my same feeling two years ago.

    1. Lou is a treasure. And what Lou pours is pretty specific: natural wines, many of them spectacular, many of them all but unobtainable outside the restaurant. They are not ``cheap'' by any means - what you are drinking is not the same as what you are drinking in other venues. The flavor characteristics of natural wines are quite different than those found in, say, overextracted Santa Barbara Pinot Noir. It's understandable that your tastes may lay elsewhere, and in fact one might expect this, but it does not mean that Lou is ripping you off.

      1. I've always had a great time at Lou. I think the wines are generally terrific, but I have had some that I just didn't like. But that is surely to be expected when one is faced with a number of wines that are unfamiliar to one's palate. In fact, I tend to find the wines an incredible value for what they are. I have also found the food to be quite good on each occasion.

        It sounds like you had a bad experience, but what exactly did you find lacking in the decor? It's not winning any awards for interior design, but my impressions were always positive. It is small and in a rather humble location for the kind of food and wine it serves, but I've never had an issue with the space.

        It also sounds like the service wasn't on point that night and that's a fact. But since I've always had excellent service, I want to defend the staff a bit. What is the purpose in keeping all of your menus for the table? Surely, you only need one to pass around after the initial order has been placed. Servers have a hard time when the table is stacked with menus and no restaurant prints enough menus for every customer to hold one for the duration of the meal. Any restaurant wants to get those menus out of the way once food is served because they need them for new diners and to ensure the menus don't end up with food stains.

        And Lou is truly one of the good guys is the restaurant business. Not to offend, and you are entitled to your entitled to your review, but it's riddled with vague assertions about the dining room and innuendo regarding an excessive profit margin, neither of which are factual. I'm with condiment: Lou is a gem.

        1. I have eaten at Lou multiple times and never had a bad meal. The wines are interesting and they will let you have tastes to see what you like. The food has always been fresh and tasty. I have recommended it to many people and never had the problems that you describe.

          1. This is such an absurd post. I've only just discovered Lou, but am kicking myself for not coming earlier. Each wine I've had there has been an eye opening experience, taking you to new places you didn't know wine could go. I mean he must be absolutely insane to find these gems. You cannot get an experience like this anywhere else in LA. His staff is very charming and always helpful. The food is seasonal, ingredient driven and has enough creativity to keep things interesting. Ridiculous post

            1. I recently tried Lou for the first time and was very happy with my visit. Good food, good wine, reasonable price (not a steal, but completely worth what we paid for a high quality meal).

              Personally I thought the food was much better than "decent" ranging from excellent to good. Some plates were standouts: the burrata app was seriously crave-worthy and we were served the best cheese plate in town (interesting cheese and very large portions). The other small dishes we got were very good as well, though I thought the mains could have been improved...couldn't put my finger on it but they were merely nice, not great.

              I could understand your gripe about the service. When I went it was a bit slow and scattered, but they made up for it by being knowledgeable and friendly. Since it was our first time we had tons of questions and we were very patiently and nicely walked through all the food items, the wines and given tastes of things to try before ordering.

              I am definitely planning on going back and have recommended it to a number of friends since my visit. Oh, and they have ample, free parking which is such a plus!

              1. You might have a point with regard to the decor (lacking, but that's part of the quirky charm of Lou's) and service can be spotty. Haven't had any issues with the food although I don't really go there for it in the first place.

                But, I disagree about your description of the wine list. The variety is outstanding and you will definitely stumble upon some real, esoteric finds. Some are reasonably priced and some are not; many of the wines offered produced in very small lots and not much gets distributed in the USA so the cost is going to be higher.

                As for the comments (not from the OP) about "natural" wines and the gross generalization of Santa Barbara pinot, well, it's just not worth the effort to respond to the anti-flavor elite.

                1. Jeez, Lou is awesome! It amazes me how misunderstood patrons can be. JCladia, your comments are simply unfounded dribble and I'm not surprised you had a bad time. You visit Lou because he doesn't play it safe. Because he's willing to change your perception if you're open to it. People love Lou because he's the odd man out. A man with deep convictions. The wines speak with such purity, to most people accustomed to swilling down industrial wood water they're simply unrecognizable. Yeah, you definitely should not return to Lou. Play it safe at Bizou. Now where was I? Oh yeah, the '05 Chidaine Clos Habert.

                  1. I'm just going to pile on here. I've only been to Lou twice so I'm no expert but both times I've had some really interesting wines that were wholly new to me (some of them I'm still looking for). Granted it's not a bargain but there's also no one else doing the same thing in LA. If you want a good value, Barbrix on Hyperion has some well-priced Italians at $6 a glass but there is no room there for revelation and the menu is better on paper than on the plate. Lou's food, on the other hand, is a great complement to the selection of wines. I also like the decor. It's small, dark, intimate and I'm a sucker for any high-end place tucked away in the corner of a strip mall.

                    1. Chipping in here to briefly add to the chorus that the OP couldn't be more wrong. It may not be cheap, but the food is always solid and they have one of the most interesting and eclectic wine lists in town; although not every bottle is a winner, I've discovered numerous excellent new wineries, wine-growing regions, and even grapes that were previously unknown to me. Furthermore, Lou and his staff have always seemed to me to be friendly and knowledgeable - it's actually one of the warmest places in town to go for a drink. And those "rough edges," especially with regards to the decor, are part of the charm.

                      1. Adding a link, since I haven't been to this place and I couldn't place it from the posts.

                        Lou on Vine
                        724 Vine St, Los Angeles, CA 90038