Lou's Beer Garden

 

"Gotta love it" hip, low-cost menu and energy in Surfside

lou beer garden

Victoria Pesce Elliott

Lou's Beer Garden is not what it seems. Despite the name, this is no bratwurst-and-brew joint filled with the sounds of an oompah band. And, to be honest, though it dubs itself "Miami's first gastro-pub'' that's also a bit optimistic. Still, for sheer hipness, low-cost menu and energy, this is a gotta-love-it hidden gem. Chef and owner Luis “Lou” Ramirez, a 29-year-old Johnson & Wales grad with a resume that includes stints with local chefs Kris Wessel and the Randazzos of Talula as well as bouts in Barcelona and Rome, has created a small but impressive menu. It includes buffalo wings, pizzas, burgers and quesadillas as well as more ambitious dishes, such as tripe crostini and a spicy, rich squid stuffed with chorizo and manchego with lots of chervil. His cooking relies on lots of seasoning, spices and fresh herbs to go with all the brewskis.

Ambiance: Though the place is ringed by a sliver of greenery, the term “garden” is stretching things. The “dining room” is a narrow band of concrete surrounding the pool of a sleek, 10-room 1930s Art Deco hotel. So, be sure you and your friends can swim. A few too many drafts, and someone could topple into the shallow blue water. Ramirez and his young crew create a cool vibe with some tasty food and a jamming soundtrack that would lure me back anytime. Anytime the weather is nice, that is; the whole restaurant and its mellow little bar are delightfully al fresco.

What Worked

  • Various brews (a dozen on tap, 8 in bottles) chosen by a “rather important-sounding” tasting panel
  • A rich and cloudy, nutty Dead Guy Ale from Rogue that works gorgeously with all the spicy, meaty dishes
  • A dozen well-priced and well-selected wines from Spain, Italy, France and Napa (all between $26 and $38 a bottle) and available by the glass
  • Super-friendly and knowledgeable young staffers
  • Consistently satisfying cracker-thin pizzas made from a blend of three flours and dressed with an array of good-quality toppings -- including a tangy tomato sauce, mozzarella and spicy salami
  • Tasty. juicy burgers served on toasty, puffed buns and slathered with mayonnaise, red onion rings, pickles, lettuce, tomato and choice of feta or American cheese
  • Delicious, satisfyingly crisp and fresh, albeit not entirely authentic, Greek salad composed of hearty romaine, green peppers, red onion and heavy oregano and doused in sharp red-wine vinegar
  • Nicely flat, pressed sardines with lemon wedges and spicy sauce
  • Good and crispy barbecued chicken wings
  • Irresistible hand-cut Belgian-style fries loaded with herbs and pepper
  • Creamy, thick shrimp bisque (available in Feb, but not in March)

What Didn’t Work

  • A signature pulled-pork sandwich on a nice, puffy toasted bun that relied on way too much sugar
  • A skimpy skewer of angry shrimp so aggressively seasoned that a single bite can obliterated a palates for the rest of the night
  • No dessert

 

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