Raise a beesting to the farm animal apocalypse — and the cook— at this fun restaurant/bar

By Richard Foss (Richard@RichardFoss.com)

A mural inside Louie's contributes to its natural energetic groove

A mural inside Louie’s contributes to its natural energetic groove

When it comes to parties, I prefer the type that are naturally fun. By this I mean that nobody is forcing people into party games or other contrived amusements — they may exist, but if you don’t feel like playing nobody gets grouchy. That goes double for restaurants, where forced gaiety or ostentatious attempts to create a club experience can backfire spectacularly. Places that have a natural energetic groove have an intangible asset that may not make the food taste better but makes you much more willing to try it.

Louie’s of Mar Vista is a fine example of a place that has a quirky, fun vibe that you feel as soon as you walk inside. The little restaurant and bar is on Grand View Avenue about a block from Venice Boulevard, and you may not have noticed it. The signage is modest, a faded picture of a pig rampant that was left over from the butcher shop that used to be here.

Once inside, you’re in a cozy room dominated by a mural that depicts the apocalypse, as acted out by farm animals. (Nothing can really explain what that looks like, so you’ll just have to see it.) The menu is mostly composed of eclectic bar snacks along with a few entrees, and we decided to mix and match from the happy hour and regular menus.

We started with egg rolls Monte Cristo-style filled with Hawaiian-style Kalua pork, ham, cabbage and cheese. I was relieved to find that unlike the classic Monte Cristo sandwich, the rolls were not dipped in egg batter before frying but had the name because they contained ham and cheese. The two fat eggrolls were served with a mild remoulade sauce and had an interesting balance of flavors; the Hawaiian-style pork shoulder is roasted for twelve hours to concentrate the flavor, and the intense porkiness is a good balance with the ham. The remoulade contained a fine grain mustard and was slightly sweet compared to the earthy, intense whole grain version I’ve had in New Orleans, but it worked well in this case.

We enjoyed this with offerings from the bar — a good, strong Negroni and a house special called the beesting that is made of ginger beer, apple brandy and honey from a hive on the roof of the building. They used a mild rather than hot ginger beer, which made for a very good balance, and it’s a must-try drink.

For main items we had ordered potted shrimp pasta and something called a PLT, which turned out to be a patty of fresh pork and bacon ground together and served on a pretzel bun with arugula and pickled tomato. (The names on many items are vague and need to be explained — for example, there are items on the menu with some ingredient called “hip tang,” but you have to ask to find out that this is a house-made spicy sauce.)

The sandwich looked small but was filling thanks to the dense, lightly salty meat patty, which made an excellent companion with the bitterness of the arugula and sweet/tart flavors of the tomato.  We had considered ordering the sandwich with a side of fries topped with Japanese togarashi pepper seasoning, but our server Stephanie suggested that it would probably be too much food. She was right, and we were grateful for the advice.

Our pasta had an unusual sauce composed of roughly chopped shrimp with cream cheese, Zatarain’s Cajun seasoning and sliced scallions that had been tossed in at the last moment so they were hot but not fully cooked. That combination may sound like a strange idea that someone would knock together in a college dorm, but it tasted excellent.

Our dessert of bread pudding was the only imperfection of the evening, because while the flavor was quite good, there was a bit too much caramel and cream on top for me. I prefer bread pudding to have a little crispness and chewiness to it, and this was very moist even before the other elements have been added. I might try it again and ask them to leave off the toppings, but since New Orleans beignets are also offered for dessert I’m likely to order those next time.

Our food ran $43, with an additional $18 for drinks.  It was a very reasonable price for dinner with a few surprises in a lively, pleasant atmosphere, and I’m looking forward to going back.

Louie’s of Mar Vista is open from 11 a.m. to midnight on Sundays, 5 p.m. to midnight Mondays through Thursdays and from noon to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. It’s part bar, so the noise level is moderate early on and gets louder later. Street parking only. Wheelchair access OK. Menu online.

Louie’s of Mar Vista , 3817 Grand View Blvd., Mar Vista  (310) 915-5300 louiesofmarvista.com