There hasn’t been so much action on the corner of Euclid Avenue and High Street in Chevy Chase since the closing of Saratoga, a Lexington landmark for more than four decades. Other restaurants have tried, some with a modicum of success (Buddy’s), others seemingly gone before they got started (Macho Nacho).
If the crowd on a recent stormy Thursday night was any indication, the newest incarnation on the corner, Louie’s Wine Dive and Chevy Chase Kitchen, might be in for a long run. Essentially a wine bar with food, it’s the type of establishment that Lexington has long needed.
Let’s start with the food. My first visit was for Sunday brunch, and the typical brunch fare (omelets, eggs and biscuits, Benedicts, all in the $10 to $15 range) didn’t stand out, but a couple of dishes definitely did.
The Riesling apple French toast (brown sugar French toast, Riesling apples, whipped cream, spiced pecans and bourbon maple syrup, $11) was decadent, as were the beignets ($5). Having lived in New Orleans for many years, I am picky about beignets, and I think that if you aren’t at Café du Monde getting powdered sugar all over your face while listening to the calliopes on the riverboats, you aren’t getting the real experience.
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At Louie’s, you won’t hear calliopes, but you will get powdered sugar on your face, and you can do something here you can’t at Café du Monde: lick the accompanying rum butter off your fingers.
My second visit, on the aforementioned stormy Thursday night, was a pleasant experience for my two dining companions and me, despite a kerfluffle over the reservations (depending on who is at the door, they either take them or they don’t). Upon checking, I found that the official policy is no reservations for parties of fewer than six.
We started by sharing a combined charcuterie and cheese platter, selecting two cheeses and a meat, served with focaccia bread, apples, pickled onions, Dijon mustard and a mouthwatering bacon jam ($15).
Note to staff (or whomever makes the decision): Don’t be so skimpy on the sizes of the platter items. As one of my dining companions remarked, “This is Kentucky, not France — size matters.”
Another note to staff: Thank you for bringing us that second portion of the bacon jam that we requested, at no extra charge.
For our entrees, one chose the Steak Deburgo, a 7-ounce seared flatiron with parmesan crust ($22); another ordered the evening’s special, chicken with pecan crust over garlic mashed potatoes (prices for the special vary); and I opted for the tandoori Atlantic salmon with cilantro mint chutney, roasted red pepper quinoa and cucumber salad ($18).
All were fine, but we agreed that the real stars were the sides — we ordered three, all delicious (oven-roasted brussels sprouts, cauliflower au gratin and maple pecan squash). Often, the sides appear to be a chef’s afterthought — definitely not the case here.
One thing I wish I had tried was the squeaky cheese curds — small fried cheese balls with marinara and a spicy aioli ($8). I must have seen at least five servings being delivered to nearby tables.
Now, for the wine. Louie’s philosophy is that ordering wine shouldn’t be intimidating, and their young servers — at least the ones I have had — are knowledgeable, passionate and eager to engage the customers in winespeak.
The menu lists 70 wines from around the world, with 29 of them by the glass. Additionally, they have a “wine board,” with specially selected wines — many of them limited-production and difficult to find — available to that night’s patrons (if you find one you like, grab it quickly, as they tend not to last long).
I ended up with the Dirty and Rowdy, a lush red from a virtually unknown grape, Mourvèdre, which originated in Spain. The wine was suggested by our two millennial servers, Tabitha and her assistant, Taylor, who happily let us sample a few wines before making our choices.
FYI: If you buy two glasses, the staff will open any bottle on the wine list.
With their wine-friendly policy (and if they improve their somewhat slow service), Louie’s Wine Dive is likely to be popping corks for a long time.
Patti Nickell is a Lexington-based travel and food writer. Reach her at email@example.com.