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Published: Friday, 1/9/2004

Restaurant review: Chateau Louise ***

The name is French, but everything else about the Chateau Louise restaurant in Luna Pier, Mich., is unabashedly plain - an upholstered bar straight out of the '50s, a wood-paneled dining room with lots of tables and chairs but no discernible decor, and the kind of food that, in the great American tradition, covers the plate and then some.

We're talking supersized portions of filling food at reasonable prices. For instance, there's the $4.50 hamburger, which weighs in at one pound, and the Chateau Platter, a larder's worth of petite sirloin steak, perch, shrimp, scallops, and frog legs, all for a measly $19.

This is the kind of steak and seafood restaurant that aims to satisfy big appetites with food, minus the pretense and fancy flourishes. The atmosphere is ordinary and the lighting is harsh, but where else would you expect to be greeted with the question, "Do you have a choice of waitress this evening?"

It's also the kind of homespun eatery where the price of a meal includes a basket loaded with breadsticks, crackers, butter, Half & Half, sandwich bread, and garlic bread. Then comes the relish tray - green onions, pickles, onions, tomato wedges, and Greek Salonica peppers, followed by a smallish iceberg salad with chick peas, carrots, and onions.

On the down side, the laminated yellow menus have seen better days - ours was flecked with dried food from previous meals. And the homemade turtle soup, not mock turtle but real, the waitress insisted, was salty and contained only specks of turtle meat amid the vegetables.

On a recent Tuesday, the restaurant was fairly full, something we weren't expecting in sleepy lakeside Luna Pier. For an appetizer, we passed on the renowned $7 deep-fried oysters

renowned $7 deep-fried oysters

in favor of the fried green pepper rings, an ample and unusual delight at $3.25.

The Surf & Turf at market price paired a mediocre South African rock lobster with a less than plump, but still flavorful, filet mignon. New York strips, T-Bones, and Porterhouses also are on the steak menu.

The $14 Seafood Platter piled on fried shrimp, perch, scallops, and frog legs, crisp on the outside and moist at the center - very satisfying. Of course, considering the size of the portions, we ended up taking a good part of the entrees home in a box.

Fresh yellow perch is one of Chateau Louise's staples, along with pickerel, oysters, scallops, and clams. The House Specials include veal cutlet for $12, chicken basket for two with french fries for $13.50, and a chicken dinner, a steal at $7.50. There's also a children's menu.

To get to Chateau Louise, take I-75 north to Luna Pier Exit 6. Turn right on Luna Pier Road. The restaurant is at Harold Drive, and the entrance and parking are at the rear. The last we looked, the outdoor sign was on the ground, propped against the side of the building.



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