The phrase “Eat. Drink. Be Happy.” scales an inner wall within Bar Louie – the newest edition to the Geneva Commons restaurant-chain gang. After ordering a couple happy-hour appetizers and a pair of flavor-packed entrees, eat we did; and happy we were.
Normally, apprehension is my first response to dining in a chain restaurant when there are so many great local eateries to sample in the area, but Bar Louie brought a bit of buzz along with it. The Texas-based chain has a dozen locations scattered across the Chicago area, and having visited Bar Louie on a single occasion many years ago, I thought it necessary to see what all the buzz was about.
I was pleasantly surprised by the urban-esque vibe Bar Louie gave off despite it being smack-dab in a suburban shopping metropolis. We picked out a corner high-back booth that looked like it belonged in a jazz club.
The atmosphere and extensive selection of cocktails made me realize exactly why the eatery is named BAR Louie. According to its website, hand-crafted cocktails are its specialty. A well-blended mix of traditional and creative cocktails, martinis, margaritas and mojitos, as well as beer and wine, take up nearly as much space on the menu as the food.
Ladies, rejoice! After a full day of shoe-shopping or looking for the next bestseller at Barnes and Noble (because we care about beauty AND smarts), Bar Louie will undoubtedly serve as the perfect place to stop for a refreshing libation.
Sitting down in the contemporary, casual cool dining room, I took a moment to take in our surroundings.
“This place is nice,” I relayed to my dining companion, who confessed to being a big Bar Louie fan.
The phrase, “happy-hour” led to our ordering of two appetizers at half prize – the Spinach Artichoke Dip ($4/$8) and Boneless Wings ($5/$10) served barbecue style. Happy hour specials take place from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.
My dining companion said she enjoyed both appetizers, especially with the happy-hour pricing.
“The barbecue wings were a nice starter since they filled me up a bit,” she said.
The Spinach Artichoke Dip’s creamy consistency – made with Parmesan cheese, garlic and house-made Alfredo – layered well atop crunchy, lightly-salted tortilla chips.
The boneless wings came with our choice of dressing, carrots and celery, and can be made in several styles including barbecue, en fuego, buffalo or Szechwan.
Other enticing appetizers – small plates – included Truffle Butter Popcorn ($3.50), New Orleans Chicken Gumbo (cup $3 and bowl $5) and Bacon-Cheeseburger Sliders ($8.50).
Salads, sandwiches, burgers, fish, pasta and chicken dishes round out the menu in which American fare is largely represented.
In need of some comfort food, I ordered the Tuscan Chicken Pasta ($13) with grilled chicken, artichoke, cavatappi noodles, fresh spinach, a three-cheese-blend, basil, tomato and mushrooms in Alfredo sauce. The large portion of pasta came with a sliver of garlic bread in case I hadn’t blown passed my allotted calorie count for the day.
My dining companion opted for the Voodoo Chicken ($12), which we were both eyeing when perusing the menu. Blackened chicken with andouille sausage, bell pepper and slightly spicy voodoo sauce was layered atop a bed of rice.
My dining companion chose the dish because she said she hadn’t seen anything like it grace the menus of very many local places.
“The voodoo sauce that came with the dish had a little kick, which I liked, and the andouille sausage and peppers had great flavor,” she said later.
Other entrees – or large plates – included Drunken Fish and Chips ($13), Mediterranean Salmon ($14.50) and Baked Mac & Cheese, which I will have to sample on my next culinary quest to overload on carbohydrates and cheese-blends. It can come with broccoli, bacon or jalapeņos ($11.50), grilled or fried chicken ($14) or shrimp ($15).
Falling in line with some of Bar Louie’s New-Orleans style menu items are the Shrimp Po’ Boy and the Fish Po’ Boy sandwiches (both $10).
If you have a sweet tooth, and a hankering for hard alcohol, the Tennessee Whiskey Cake ($8) is a fresh-baked apple caramel cake soaked in Jack Daniel’s whiskey glaze. You’ll need an ID to order it as its only for customers who are of the legal drinking age.
Bar Louie’s smart cocktails, contemporary cool ambience and diverse menu have allowed the franchise to open locations in consumer-savvy markets like Oak Brook and Naperville. It’s no wonder the restaurant chain decided to set up shop in Geneva, and, frankly, what took them so long?
If you go
Address: Bar Louie, 1602 Commons Drive, Suite 600, Geneva
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Sunday
• The Mystery Diner is a newsroom employee at the Kane County Chronicle. The diner’s identity is not revealed to the restaurant staff before or during the meal. The Mystery Diner visits a different restaurant each week and then reports on the experience. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a review.