For most restaurants, peak time hits around 6 to 6:30 in the evening. But for Loui Loui, the party doesn’t get started until the sun is well below the horizon. Once 8 p.m. strikes, the line hits max capacity, as patrons take in the sounds and smells of the North’s New Orleans.
After its grand opening just a few weeks ago on Feb. 3, Loui Loui Allston is already one of the neighborhood’s most hip places to eat. A five-minute walk from the Harvard Avenue station on the B line, Loui Loui is a Louisiana-inspired seafood restaurant that offers a hands-on experience, and serves as a perfect place for a late-night snack before heading to one of the many bars in the area. It stands out among the dozens of Italian seafood restaurants in the North End and the big names near Newbury St. by having a simple but modern interior design, and an uplifting vibe.
Jonathan Joo, Loui Loui’s director of development, explained that the restaurant selected Allston as its third location for the neighborhood’s growing reputation as a foodie haven.
“We wanted to be a part of that atmosphere, that culture,” Joo said.
A must-have at Loui Loui is the build-your-own-meal style Cajun seafood boil. The boiler allows diners to select from nine kinds of seafood, tossed with their choice of sauce and sides in different levels of spiciness. The gloves and bib arrive at the table shortly after ordering, and only build up the anticipation. The food then arrives in two layers of giant plastic bags—one to hold the food, and one to catch the residual mixture of oil and sauce seeping through the bag.
The Louisiana sauce is the most popular of Loui Loui’s signature sauces. The sauce stains the entire bag into a crawfish-red color, and provides a strong flavor that hides in the background. At first, it highlights the tender texture of the seafood, but returns with an earthly kick that reaches the back of the throat. The plastic cup of ice water served with a straw upon being seated makes a lot of sense now. From the same bag, a bite out of the half-pound of greasy, sliced Andouille sausages conjures up sensory memories of New York City’s hot dog stands.
The garlic butter sauce produces an entirely different experience. Through the gloves, chunks of pepper trapped on the shells of the Cape Cod littleneck clams feel like sand on a beach. The inner surface of the shells is filled with minced garlic that adds another dimension to the flavor without the raw spiciness one would expect. While the flavor of the sauce makes an indirect presence in the crawfish, shrimp, and corn, the clams are soaked in this creamy sauce. The clams slide into the mouth with an unexpected sweetness. The smooth taste of the garlic butter sauce is, however, distinct from the garlic noodles that are served on the side, which introduces, yet again, a new variety to the taste buds.
One of the seafood options on the menu is the Dungeness crab, which Joo took particular attention to explain. Although Joo was introduced to Dungeness crab while he was travelling in California a few years ago, as it is native to the West Coast, Joo explained that he immediately envisioned the crab with Loui Loui’s Louisiana sauce. Now, Dungeness crab can be found at the end of the list of seafood options for the Boiler as a seasonal special.
Loui Loui boasts its Louisiana inspiration. Joo praises Louisiana as “a big, big melting pot of a lot of different cultures.” He also remarked on the multiple cultural influences in Louisiana, including the French, Acadian, Jamaican, and Haitian, and pointed out their common status with Boston as island or coastal region, making seafood a natural and important part of the local cuisine. Loui Loui’s live crawfish is supplied from Louisiana every week.
At its Stoneham, Mass. location last fall, Loui Loui hosted a crawfish-eating competition, a favorite among locals on the bayou.
“Crawfish really is like a special part of the Louisiana seafood, Louisiana food menu, so we wanted to celebrate that, and we thought that having a crawfish-eating contest would be a great idea to have everyone come in and, you know, enjoy the food,” Joo said.
The restrooms in the back of the restaurant reveal the thoughtfulness of Loui Loui’s service. Next to the sink is a three-tier metal cart equipped with a jar of lemon slices to “rid the funk,” as the sign reads, from the hands, as well as a bottle of mouthwash, and a cup dispenser.
Following the opening of this Allston location just earlier this month, Loui Loui is already making plans to expand. Its next location will be opening soon in Lowell, Mass.
“We want to go nationwide,” Joo said. “We want to expand as many as possible and have a lot of locations so that people anywhere can try the food.”
Featured Image by Sherry Hsiao