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Aug 14, 2010 09:59 PM

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.

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          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.