Bitchin' Crabcakes at Lou's Beer Garden
The entrance is on the side of the hotel. You follow a path wreathed with green on either side, then emerge onto a concrete pool deck. There's often live entertainment and always more neon lighting up the bar. Scattered tables with comfortable plastic chairs dot the concrete patio that wraps around the pool. Nothing screams "bar" or "restaurant." So you wonder whether you're in the place that serves $22 New Zealand lamb and $9 beers.
The table ordered two Chimay Tripels ($9.69), one of three Belgian beers on tap. We tried for a glass of Juan de Valdelana Rioja ($8), but they were out so we settled for the Vina los Valles Organic Rioja ($8.50). Lou's serves only red, white, and sparkling wine, and beer. The beers on tap include Raging Bitch ($7.50), Dead Guy Ale ($7.25), and Hennepin ($6.75). Bottled beers, featuring Monk in a Trunk organic ale ($6), Strong Bow Dry Cider ($6), and Buffalo Bill's Pumpkin Ale ($6) range in price from $6 to $7.50.
Chef Lou Ramirez, chef and owner, prides himself on his gastropub. His menu is a constant work in progress. He works with purveyors such as FreshPoint, and puts a lot of care into a menu that he fears is becoming too fine dining. "We're getting too close," Chef Ramirez says, then shudders at the thought. He explains that his pizzas ($13 to $16.95), which are cracker-crispy are made with five types of flour. The veggie pizza ($16.95) is topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella, onions, green bell peppers, kalamata olives, mushrooms, and cherry tomatoes. Sauce is the only ingredient lacking.
The menu is diverse, yet simple. There are just two salads: summer blue ($9.50) and Onassis Greek ($10.50, $13.50 with shrimp). The Greek salad is not over-dressed and is comprised of fresh romaine lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, kalamata olives, cucumbers, green bell peppers, and Greek feta cheese drizzled with Esporao Portuguese E.V.O.O. and fresh pressed lemon juice.
There is a cheeseboard ($14), a meat board ($15), and a cheeseboard/meat board combo ($22). The flash fried calamari ($11.95) comes with baby squid rings cut and flash fried (in peanut oil) to order and served with San Marzano tomato marinara sauce, of which the order could use a more generous side of. Chef's Table Specials include Bitchin' mini crab cakes ($15.95) pan-fried and complemented by lightly seasoned Rucula and the Chef's three sauces. The organic churrasco steak sandwich ($12.95) is cooked to temperature (medium-rare is recommended) and pressed with French baguette and melted blue cheese, and served with an arugula salad with tomatoes and onions.
While the menu does not currently offer dessert, Chef Ramirez tells us that his sous chef, who has a penchant for desserts, is working on items such as a key lime pie made with a shortbread crust.
Lou's Beer Garden
7337 Harding Ave., Miami Beach