Lou's Beer Garden
"Gotta love it" hip, low-cost menu and energy in Surfside
Lou's Beer Garden at The New Hotel
7337 Harding Ave, Miami Beach
Hours: Daily from 5pm until midnight (and later on weekends); Sunday brunch from 1pm
Prices: All menu items $7.50-$14. No desserts offered.
FYI: Wine, beer and sake cocktails; most Fridays live local music; free parking available at municipal lot at 73rd Street and Harding; plentiful free street parking. Reservations accepted but not required. AX, DN, DS, MC, VS.
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.
- 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
- 3.5 stars for superb food & elegant setting at Michael Schwartz’s Cypress Room
- 3 stars for fresh seafood at North Miami's Fish Fish
- 3 stars for laid back seafood at South Beach's Charles St.
- 3 stars for fantastic bites and super sips at Coral Gables' Bulla Gastrobar
- 2.5 stars for gourmet Cuban classics at Gables’ Bread + Butter
- 2.5 stars for Miami's Tutto’s Mare
- 3 stars for Eating House in Coral Gables
- 2 stars for Vivaldino at the Gables’ Hotel St. Michel
- 2.5 stars for South Beach's Catch
- 3 stars for Kendall's "sexy, delectable" Devon Seafood + Steak