Bar Louie started in Chicago in 1991, but is now another restaurant chain owned by private investment firm Sun Capital Partners. If you recognize the name, it's probably because co-CEO Marc Leder hosted Mitt Romney at his Florida home when Romney made his "47 percent" comments in 2012.
The restaurant occupies a second floor next to Cinemark, which means good views of Pikes Peak and great views of people driving around and buying movie tickets. However, if you can forget about how illogically First & Main Town Center is laid out, proximity does lend some energy to the joint.
You can take the elevator or the stairs to the top. If you do the former, expect to miss the sign saying you should sit anywhere, and don't expect staff to help. Even when we noticed the sign the first time, the lunchtime bartender just stared at our table while we wondered if we had a server.
The place has a Mad Men feel, with a millennial flair for intoxication. "I only drink on days that end in Y. #firstworldproblems," reads a sentence scrawled in chalk above a central bar, decked out in iridescent tile, dark wood and flat screens. Fourteen Colorado beers are on draft, including Great Divide's Yeti Imperial Stout. (Yes, a 14-ounce tulip is only $3.25 during happy hour. Tell your friends.)
It's a huge menu, a big restaurant, and a big bar, so here's the quick gist: Go at night; sit at the corner of the bar under the light; and order the Stockyard Burger ($10.50) with loaded tater tots ($1). The latter are stoner food if anything is, but the burger is no joke. Peppercorns, mushrooms, Romaine, onions, tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce and Parmesan-bleu cheese combine over an obscene patty of gorgeously pink beef. Consume accordingly.
The cocktail menu treats you like an adult, which is novel for a chain restaurant, meaning you'll see the kind of bitters and liqueurs you still don't see at most local stops. The pre-built stuff tends to run pretty pink, so avoid the Ruby Martini ($5.25 at happy hour) if you don't dig. Note the Effen Good ($5.25), a cucumber bit spiked with lime that's as advertised.
Food-wise, skip the small, spongy adobo shrimp skewers ($10). (Were they boiled? Microwaved? Merely breathed on?) The baked chicken mac-and-cheese ($14) features no hallmarks of the oven, and a buffalo flatbread ($5.50 during happy hour) is just ranch, wing sauce and bland ground chicken. Our Drunken Fish and Chips ($13) brought all the oil in the fryer with them.
Eat the Meatballs al Forno ($11), because delicious meat served with gooey cheese in bold tomato sauce from a hot cast-iron pan next to toast points deserves rewarding. Likewise with short-rib sliders ($12.50), and their mushrooms, balsamic onions and an Asiago-Swiss mix. Try the tender, well-rinsed mussels ($10) and pinch them out with an empty shell to impress strangers. Order the tasty turkey, ham and brie sandwich ($9.75), but curse it for being ridiculous when the round baguettes arrive inverted, causing all the toppings to slide off.
Bar Louie has its moments. Your money goes to increasing the most unsightly income gap in the nation's history; the restaurant will probably put its superior neighbor The Wobbly Olive out of business; and the servers wear martini shirts that say, "I like it dirty." But sometimes you like it dirty, too, and that's why you're there.
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