lou's pointe-claire steakhouse restaurant montreal

Lou’s in Pointe-Claire is part swanky steakhouse, part diner, with what might be the perfect burger

“Sophisticated but not alienating, accessible but not dumbed-down, Lou’s is the kind of place where you could pop in for a burger and beer with a pal or celebrate your 20th wedding anniversary.”

There’s an innately sophisticated-verging-on-sartorial identity to Montreal’s restaurant scene that is, at face value, directly at odds with the in-the-box, cookie-cutter-type reputation of the suburbs. But over the last five years or so, as the demographics in the suburbs are changing and the homes previously owned by baby boomers are being purchased by millennials with growing families, there’s been an obvious appetite for restaurants that offer a taste of city life. Enter Lou’s, a New-American restaurant opened in November by a trio of serial restaurateurs in the heart of Pointe-Claire Village. Lou’s in exactly the kind of place that scratches that itch, but it’s also a product of another major trend that has been dominating the restaurant industry: nostalgia.

For what it’s worth, the Pointe-Claire Village is very charming. It feels a lot more like a small town in the Eastern Townships than neighbouring Kirkland or DDO and has a real community feel to it — people know each other here and so the success of a restaurant like this lies in the desire for the community to adopt it. Luckily, co-owner Peter Mant (Apt.200, Suwu, Ecole Privée, Name’s on the Way) is a West Island native with a local-boy-makes-good kind of reputation. Mant is joined by Loïc’s Max Ruiz Laing, who oversees the dining room, and Liam Barron (chef and co-owner of Loïc) — a chef whose talents and vision for food remain, in my view, somewhat under-appreciated in the city.

lou's pointe-claire martini
A dirty martini at Lou’s

The other thing to know about Lou’s is that it is swanky. That should come as no surprise given that the interior design was done by Sid Lee’s Kyle Adams Goforth, the man behind Elena, the Vogue Hotel and the 46th-floor fine-dining destination Hiatus. Lou’s aesthetic draws heavily on colours of the late 1960s and early ’70s with dark woods and richly-hued shades of yellow, orange and red. It’s got a distinctly vintage steakhouse feel to it while also feeling entirely modern. I’m a firm believer in the notion that the looks and feel of a space can set the tone for the experience to come and Lou’s lets you know exactly what you’re in for the moment you walk through the doors. 

The martini is the official emblem of Lou’s and so it goes without saying that the martini section holds the spotlight on the beverage menu. The signature martini, made with your choice of gin or vodka, is garnished with a single drop of olive oil, and is excellent. I can’t speak to the espresso martini (not my bag) but trays of them seem to be constantly circling about the room. I will say, however, that the dirty martini I ordered (absolutely my bag) seems to have been made using a sweet pickle brine, which is not the profile I’m looking for in a drink at all. Stick with the olive brine or toss in some Putter’s pickle brine but please move off the bread and butter stuff. If martinis aren’t your thing, there’s a list of classic cocktails all done properly and a fairly decent wine list. Not drinking at all? The bartenders are more than well-equipped to whip up something booze-free based on your personal preferences.

The burger at Lou’s

On to the food. Barron’s menu, in my estimation, is about two parts steakhouse to one part diner. That is to say, there are dry-aged steaks, oysters on the half-shell and Parker House rolls but there’s also a club sandwich and niçoise salad. It’s a highly approachable menu, entirely uncomplicated and full of thoughtful renditions of recognizable and well-loved classics — an essential trait for its suburban surroundings. It could easily come across as pandering, but it doesn’t. Instead, Barron’s menu feels exactly right for Lou’s — it’s self-aware, it aims to please and it plays the hits with a signature brand of vintage panache. Put another way, you can put onion dip and a cheeseburger on the menu and it doesn’t feel kitschy, it feels classy. Well done.

This particular visit was my second time at Lou’s. The first time, I sampled a few of the offerings from the entrées section. The oysters are as you’d expect: shucked cleanly and served with the standard accoutrements. The beef tartare is also fairly standard (meaning classic and delicious) and the Parker rolls are as fluffy, buttery and pillowy as you could possibly hope. The caramelized onion dip was a delightful dinner party throwback and came with a side of crosshatched waffle chips. The crab cake, however, is perhaps the best dish from the selection. At $21, it might feel like an expensive app — especially for one single crab cake — but you certainly get your money’s worth of crab. Plump, breaded and beautifully browned, the cake is packed to the edges with sweet lump crab and flecked with chives. There’s a noticeable absence of filler, and the spicy mayo on which the crab cake sits adds a welcome touch of heat. The crab cake comes served with a pile of remoulade that’s got heaps of capers and plenty of lemon juice making for a tart and briny counterpart to the seafood — lovely.

Lou's pointe-claire
Dry-aged in house at Lou’s, served by the ounce

Steaks call out on the mains side of the menu and, knowing Barron’s cooking, you’d likely be well served to order one. I, however, wanted to test his mettle a bit and chose dishes with the potential to be great but could also be quite ho-hum: pappardelle Genovese, roast chicken and a cheeseburger. Each dish is quintessentially quotidian and can be incredible or incredibly boring. The pasta Genovese, at face value, seems like it ought to be a pesto dish — it’s not. Instead, the Genovese ragu is made of beef braised in red wine. If you’ve had tagliatelle al ragu or Tuscany’s wild boar ragu then this hearty Ligurian sauce will feel quite familiar. The pasta was perfectly cooked, and the ragu was hearty with tender ribbons of pulled beef getting wrapped up in every forkful of noodles. A perfect winter dish done with real know-how. 

The roast half-chicken (breast and leg) is deboned and pan-roasted and served with a bundle of gently wilted spinach and a generous puddle of brown butter brightened up with a good squeeze of lemon. It’s a lovely plate of roast chicken but I doubt people will be lining up around the block for it. It’s not to say it doesn’t merit its place on the menu but I wouldn’t call it a featured player.

The cheeseburger on the other hand — goddamn. I hoped to never become a hamburger evangelist and yet, this one is worthy of very high praise. I ordered the burger because I thought to myself, Liam’s Loïc burger and crinkle fries were a triumph of the pandemic era — surely he can’t make a burger better than that. Well, he did it. The burger at Lou’s is, in my opinion, nearly perfect. A generously sized and well-seared patty (though decidedly not a smash burger) topped with sharp comté, deeply caramelized onions and a sauce I’d guess is in the mayo-chup family all on a beautifully soft and tender sesame bun — made in house, I should add. It’s excellent, and at $21, with a side of shoestring fries and a pickle spear, is an absolute steal of a deal. 

Lou’s is a classic restaurant — it’s a nice place with food you know done the way you hoped it would be. It’s sophisticated but not alienating, it’s accessible but not dumbed-down — it’s the kind of place where you could pop in for a burger and beer with a pal or celebrate your 20th wedding anniversary. In short, it’s got the makings of an excellent neighbourhood joint. With that said, it’s not my neighbourhood and though the room is consistently full and the buzz is positive, it’s up to the fine folks of the West Island to make this place home. Although with food this good and a generous supply of cold Labatt 50 on tap — I’m sure ol’ Lou is settling in just fine. ■

For more on Lou’s, please visit their website.

For more on the food and drink scene in Montreal, please visit the Food & Drink section.