The 16th Louies Grill & Bar, 7300 N. Western, just made its debut, and the Oklahoma-based concept is popping up around town with more to come. Calling itself a casual American-fare grill, there are Louies all over the metro, plus others in Broken Arrow, Jenks, Stillwater and Tulsa. Beyond this, there is a Louies in Fayetteville, Ark., and another in Wichita, Kan.
Imagine, just eight years ago, the first Louies opened in Campus Corner.
from left, Jamie Forsyth, Mike Fuentez and Kate Kahmann at Louies
Louies is under the umbrella of the successful Norman-based Hal Smith Restaurant Group that has established its reputation and continues to soar. The Hal Smith group also runs several unbeatable franchises, including Charlestons Restaurant, Toby Keiths I Love This Bar & Grill, Mahogany Prime Steakhouse and Teds Cafe Escondido.
The group also runs the regional operations of Krispy Kreme, which is where Mike Fuentez, the general manager of the latest Louies, got his start. When asked how much weight he put on while working in that particular doughnut shop starting in June 2001, he said he actually lost 35 pounds in his first four months. He worked from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m. with two-hour lines.
Fuentez, who entered Louies management program and became a managing partner, now owns a piece of the action. With nothing more than $10 on its menu, Louies is famed for burgers, plus pizza, salads, soups and sandwiches. There is also a full bar with wine, specialty drinks and beer.
More than a dozen flat-screen televisions command the handsome seating room at this latest Louies. Those televisions are tuned into many different sports events being broadcast simultaneously unless the University of Oklahoma or Oklahoma State University are playing.
It depends on how much orange or crimson we have in the building, Fuentez said.
After work, the 5 p.m. crowd gathers around the bar. The outside patio looks welcoming, but its the sleek, modern decor of Louies and the comfortable chairs that most regulars enjoy.
Our music is playing all of the time for people in the mood for a cocktail.
Its been a good area so far, Fuentez said. Our busiest hours are for lunch, and we are usually full beginning at 11 to 11:15 a.m., and it goes on until 1:30 p.m. We get a lot of Chesapeake folks, and we give Chesapeake people a 10-percent discount. Our music is playing all of the time for people in the mood to have a nice cocktail and not have the music so loud that you cant have a conversation.
Walking through the doors, customers are greeted with a Hi! Welcome to Louies! from the servers. Patrons appreciate being noticed. Its somewhat like Cheers, where everybody knows your name.
For larger groups, panels between tables come down, allowing everyone to sit together. Plantation shutters block unnecessary sunlight, and hanging on the burgundy-walled dining room and the inside lobby are stunning pieces of art, all gathered by Traci Smith, the daughter of Hal Smith.
Seating capacity, not counting the bar top, is 120. Groups of 25 to 30 come in, and they can be seated, but for anything that large, the crew would like prior notification.
The patio is seductive and holds 18 people. In spring of 2012, plans are to add up to six more tables.
PICKING THE BEST
When Louies started assembling its crew, there were a few rough spots.
the long, hot summer of 2011, the newest Louies, 7300 N. Western, was
in the midst of the remodeling and there was no air conditioning
available because there was no electricity, which stunned the
applicants. But they hustled along with Austin Wiggins, the food and
beverage director in charge of hiring.
was horrible with 108 degrees outside and just two outlets in the whole
building were working, said Mike Fuentez, general manager. He said
several employees on his staff, which now numbers approximately 42, came
from other Louies in Edmond and in Moore and brought along their
of our people worked at other Louies and still do work more than one
job. Some actually have multiple jobs, but they come in knowing the job
and where everything is, Fuentez said.