As a woman from New Jersey, 24-hour local diners are a huge part of my existence — there’s one on every corner back home. Here, there’s always Louie’s Café.
When we dined there, it was nearly 1 a.m. on a Sunday. My husband and I had spent that Saturday evening at L’Auberge Casino, where we had enjoyed music from The Michael Foster Project.
Throughout my eight years in Baton Rouge, we’ve done the same ritual — see a band, go eat — but the differences this time were Louie’s sweet new location, and my dietary change that excludes hamburgers, which had been my go-to item over the years.
Upon arriving to “New Louie’s” the first thing I noticed was the ample parking. Located in the LSU area’s former Wendy’s location, the second oldest restaurant in Baton Rouge at 74 years old, has obviously gotten the make-over of a lifetime.
Vibrantly painted in sea-foam green with complementary shiny red hop stools and chairs, the new decorations boasted a blast from the past. And it was clean — super clean, much unlike my older, ‘fond’ memories of the business.
We were greeted and seated by a young hostess who handed us menus and took our drink orders. She was neither pleasant nor rude. Our waitress, however, was an inattentive nightmare.
I ordered the chicken sandwich on wheat ($3.95) dressed with lettuce, tomato, sprouts, Swiss cheese and mayo with a side of hash browns ($2.95). I ordered the potatoes unseasoned because the chef has a heavily spiced hand that makes the potatoes unbearably spicy for me, I learned on a previous visit.
The sandwich appeared to be mostly everything but chicken, as the dressings were in a much greater quantity than their accompaniment of a very thinly sliced chicken breast. Each bite was mostly bread, but the little chicken I tasted was juicy and well-seasoned.
My husband retreated to an old favorite of his, the seafood salad (tomato, shrimp and mushrooms) over a bed of rotini pasta with ranch dressing sans sunflower seeds ($10.25).
As an item he’s eaten many times over the years, he provided an in-depth analysis of his selection, saying the shrimp was the best part.
“It was well-seasoned, good flavor,” he said. “Rotini pasta is a good base for salad, but the noodles were a little dry.”
He said he also enjoyed the mushrooms, but as always, was in hopes of an option to have them grilled instead of raw.
As I ate my sandwich and sipped my water, I soon found myself with an empty glass. The restaurant began to spill over with party-going patrons ready to fill their bellies post nightclub, and so began the decline of our waitress’ attention to us.
I watched other waitresses run water to their tables but it was nearly 20 minutes before ours returned and it wasn’t for a water refill. She snatched away my plate of hash browns I was hoping to take home.
I pulled them back and asked for water. She returned with the check, thus inspiring me to skip ordering dessert. The only choices were apple pie and bread pudding anyway, and actually I have never had dessert there. It never really looked too appetizing at the hours I tend to frequent the location.
Overall, I left with a satisfied tummy and a bill under $25, and that’s kind of Louie’s appeal — you may not get the best service in the world, but the late night local grub option with fair pricing and nostalgia makes it worth the trip.