The Scene: The chainification of Gallery Place continues with the arrival of this restaurant and bar, part of a Chicago-based franchise with more than 30 locations scattered from Tampa to Wrigleyville to Milwaukee. Bar Louie's decor mixes elements from generic steakhouses and hotel restaurants: Lots of wood, lots of light, walls covered with generic black-and-white photos of people having a gay old time. The focal point of the room is a huge rectangular bar topped with flat-screen TVs and surrounded by tall tables of both the long-and-communal and short-and-round variety. It's a good place to hang for a drink, though the eclectic music selection, veering from Huey Lewis to AC/DC, may leave you scratching your head. Located directly across from the Regal Cinema ticket window and near the entrance to the Verizon Center, Bar Louie's prime location and safe, upscale blandness should help lure crowds for post-movie martinis and pre-game beers.
In Your Glass: Having a uniform drink menu for every Bar Louie location probably saves money, but it's not nice to be hoodwinked by a beer list that promises both bottles of Fat Tire (made by Colorado's New Belgium Brewing Company) and Honker Ale (from Chicago's Goose Island Brewery) on tap. Fat Tire is considered something of a holy grail for D.C. beer drinkers, since the amber ale has never been available east of the Mississippi, and it looks like Louie's menu is raising falls hopes. Worse, without those fine beers, the draft selection disappoints: You'd think 20 taps would offer something more exciting than the standard lineup American beers with a couple of imports (Sapporo, Kronenbourg) to lighten things up. Faced with such choices, you might want to turn your attention to the lengthy cocktail selection, which includes the Dirty CEO martini (vodka with blue cheese-stuffed olives) and both pomegranate and blood orange margaritas.
On Your Plate: Bar Louie touts its burgers, like the Philly (grilled onions and mushrooms with provolone) and the Backyard BBQ (barbecue sauce, bacon and cheddar). Like the restaurant itself, they're large and filling, but not spectacular. There's a hefty selection of sandwiches and po'boys, too.
Need to Know: Beers come in both 14-ounce (smaller than a pint) and 20-ounce (imperial pint) pours. Go for the larger, as it's only a buck more, and the glass is satisfying heavy and monster-sized.
Nice to Know: There's no happy hour yet, though one is "in the works."
Price Points: Martinis start around $10, and most of the "premium" beers -- a group that ranges from Sam Adams to Kronenburg -- are $6 for a less-than-a-pint glass. Burgers are $10 each, while most sandwiches are in the same price range.
-- Fritz Hahn (July 2006)