Hearing Bar Louie owner Eric Fortney talk about his patio, you'd think he was preparing for war.
"If you're opening in Uptown and you don't have a rooftop, what are you going to do?" he asked rhetorically. "I wanted to do something that would stand up to the rooftops."
After opening last Thursday, his new spot has thrown down a gauntlet of sorts. (You hear that, Stella? Cafeteria?)
Bar Louie is a Dallas-based chain that hates to be called a chain. One of its corporate tag lines is "no two Bar Louies are the same." In this case, Fortney (who's franchised this location with his brother Marc) seems to be holding up his end of the bargain.
The impressive 100-seat patio is centered around a shallow LED-lit pool. It's basically a fancy wading pool. Fortney encourages customers to dip their feet in on hot days.
Located on the first level of Uptown's new Mozaic building, Bar Louie has a few other sparkly bells and whistles sure to attract the crowds spawned from the aforementioned rooftops.
This is Fortney's second franchised location after opening one four years ago in Columbus, Ohio. There are more than 45 outposts nationwide, but Fortney said the Bar Louie bosses give franchisees a good amount of latitude on design of the restaurant. He was proudest of a hand-tiled mosaic that looms large over the central bar.
Like its newish neighbor, Primebar, it has a menu of mainstream gastropub fare (order your calamari traditional or doused in buffalo sauce). The price points on the burgers and sandwiches hover in the $9-$12 range, with entrees a couple dollars more.
What's to like
With two large garage doors and a mezzanine that wraps around the entire room, Bar Louie has a free-flowing energy. The place was made for big groups, with roomy sleek leather booths taking up a lot of real estate. It's good to see a national brand making room for craft beer and investing in local breweries -- you'll find Fulton, Badger Hill and Lucid among the 40 taps at the central bar. The upstairs bar has another 20 draft lines.
What needs work
When I stopped by, it was only the third night in operation but a bachelorette party already had discovered the joint. A few Uptown bro-bar types had wandered in as well. So there's that. The colorful cocktail lineup will excite Uptown bar-hoppers, but don't come expecting Marvel Bar.
If its first weekend is any indication, Bar Louie will do big business in Uptown. Fortney, who owns the Brothers chain with his brother Marc, knows how to play to demographics. The food and craft beer is quirky enough to lure customers of all ages during lunch and dinner. And the late-night scene has a vibe similar to the big bars and restaurants nearby.
Its 100-seat patio -- with its South Beach-style water feature -- should be packed until November. But even then, Fortney says a ring of heaters and two large fire pits should keep the outdoor destination busy.
"We'll push this thing as far as we can go," he said.
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