After spending a recent morning in a futile chase attempting to get in touch with a food-truck operator who could only be contacted by text or tweet, I was getting the feeling that the world was moving in a direction away from me. Being a member of the over-40 crowd, this was most perplexing. After all, we were supposed to be the generation which would not be ignored or denied.
No one ever said anything about getting passed by, however.
Just then, I had the great pleasure of discovering a new restaurant that wants me to be its customer. Bar Louie is coming to Providence and despite its name, it is not looking for the college crowd. Opening in late November next to Capital Grille on Exchange Terrace, the Restaurant Row downtown in the Union Station complex – using the Rhode Island GPS, it’s where Raphael and more recently Ardeo used to be – this will be the gastropub chain’s second New England location. The other one is located in Patriot Place in Foxborough, Mass.
Self-described as a “casually cool neighborhood restaurant,” Bar Louie started 21 years ago in Chicago. Amanda Resten, New England marketing manager, describes the menu as American-style with “a little of everything” from tilapia to burgers. There is a section of the menu devoted to sandwiches which are oversized and large enough for a meal.
In contrast to those big sandwiches, so-called small plates have been a growth section of the company’s menus for some time. Marc Wuenschel, Bar Louie’s vice president of culinary, told the Nation’s Restaurant News that small plates such as chicken nachos with spicy cheese sauce, Bavarian pretzel sticks with cinnamon butter, queso and honey mustard sauce and adobo shrimp skewers account for nearly one-third of the chain’s overall food business. Another signature is a menu of specialty cocktails featuring 12 drinks that range in price from $7 to $10. These drinks are on the leading edge with concoctions featuring eclectic spirits, such as elderflower liqueur. The company touted an award its cocktail menu recently won in competition with libations from 24 countries.
Resten says New England in general is important to Bar Louie as a target market for expansion. She says Providence in particular means a lot to the company, which chose to move into Rhode Island even before scouting out locations in the Boston area.
The reasons reinforce the restaurant chain’s philosophy of appealing to a grown-up crowd. Boston has an outsized college population which is not Bar Louie’s primary target consumer. The chain does have plans to expand in New England, including Boston, in the next few years.