If a restaurant has a name like Louie & The Redhead Lady, you know personality must play a big part in it. Of course, the food must be good for it to be successful in the long run. Here, personality and good eats go together just like the husband and wife team who own it.
After adjusting their menu, the restaurant now offers lunch and dinner in its cozy location at 136 Blaize Ave. in Bay St. Louis. It's in Old Town, in the strip of old buildings often referred to as "where they filmed 'This Property Is Condemned.'" That's always a bonus for a Natalie Wood fan and someone who can't resist a Robert Redford film (what woman can?).
I went one weekday for lunch; several tables were already filled when I arrived at 11:30. I decided to try an appetizer for my meal, although there are several soups and salads, po-boys, pasta dishes, steaks and seafood dishes as well as daily lunch specials (Wednesday's special is spaghetti and meatballs with a vegetable).
There are several delicious-sounding appetizers, but I settled on Eggplant Algiers ($14), fried eggplant medallions layered with boiled shrimp, crab cake and crabmeat, topped with a light cream sherry sauce. Other appetizers that caught my attention are Oysters La Luzianne ($12), six flash fried oysters topped with Chef Louie's garlic aioli and Parmesan, and Fried Green Tomatoes ($11), topped with boiled shrimp and remoulade, served on a bed of lettuce.
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As my friendly server walked away with my order, I took in my surroundings. Exposed brick walls, high ceiling and comfortable seating, plus a view of the depot park across the street. Up by the front door is a small gift shop offering handmade jewelry.
If you're eating at Louie & The Redhead Lady, arrive hungry. Your server will bring around a dish of Louie's special spinach and artichoke dip, with buttered French bread to hold it, as a starter. I dived into the hot dip, which also has tangy feta cheese.
While it's on the appetizer list, Eggplant Algiers is a meal. The bottom layer is a fried slice of eggplant, topped by a thick crab cake, then another eggplant slice, them big shrimp and crabmeat, with another eggplant slice on top, all topped with that cream Sherry sauce, which has just the slightest hint of sweetness. A steak knife accompanies this tower of deliciousness, but I chose to excavate with my fork. There was plenty left over for takeout, although my server said many do polish it off.
During a previous visit, a fellow in a black T-shirt and cayenne pepper-patterned pants had stopped briefly by my table. "How are you doing, my dawlin'?" he said with a charming smile. I had seen him going back and forth around the kitchen so I (correctly) surmised he was Louie. In fact, you can count on his wife, Ginger, or Louie or maybe even both stopping by your table and warmly welcoming you.
On this visit, Ginger brought me a small saucer of their Terrebonne Chowder to sample ($4 a cup, $8 a bowl). It's a Louisiana take on that famous thick Yankee soup; in this incarnation, it includes baby potatoes soaked in crab boil, plus shrimp, oysters or whatever local seafood is in season; crawfish will show up for Lent.
Louie and Ginger Finnan have been married for 30 years, and though Ginger's hair is red, the original Redhead Lady was Louie's mother, Williamae. Louie and Ginger met one evening when she arrived with friends at the restaurant's first location in the French Quarter (where Louie grew up). Louie saw her and was smitten.
"All my friends went there all the time, so I met them there and ordered steak. He saw me from the bar and brought champagne over," Ginger said.
"We got married at her house," Louie said, looking at Ginger affectionately. They now boast six children and nine grandchildren.
The couple moved to the Bay last summer, then moved the restaurant from its later location in Mandeville, and opened in December. In 2011, Guy Fieri had featured the Mandeville restaurant in the "Quirky Classics" episode of Food Network's "Diner's Drive-Ins & Dives."
It turns out Eggplant Algiers is their biggest seller -- "Louie's 'Stairway to Heaven,'" Louie has described it.
Customers also appreciate Ginger's Favorite Spinach Salad ($9), which features fresh spinach, mushrooms, bacon, walnuts, boiled eggs and bleu cheese dressing, as well as Zydeco Shrimp appetizer ($13).