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Published: Thursday, 10/18/2007

Restaurant review: Bar Louie***

Once upon a time at Levis Commons in Perrysburg - actually, just a few months ago - there was a restaurant named Bluepoint Fish Club, a national chain whose owners moved into the shopping center with great fanfare and presumably great expectations.

The food at Bluepoint was what you would expect from a fish club - shrimp, whole lobster, king crab, mahi mahi, grouper, a raw bar, and assorted other seafood, along with flat-iron steaks, chicken, and decent gumbo.

A year later, Bluepoint was gone, swiftly replaced with Bar Louie, a self-proclaimed "hip, casually cool" restaurant with a sports bar ambience. Its stock-in-trade is an abundance of often spicy southwest and blackened dishes and a decided emphasis on martinis, mojitos, cosmopolitans, margaritas, beer, and wine.

The corporate owner, Restaurants-America, is the same Chicago-based organization that holds title to Bluepoint as well as 50 or more other upscale restaurants with varying concepts.

So what caused the switch in Perrysburg? According to a Bar Louie bartender, the restaurant's demise at Levis Commons was foreordained.

"It was always the intention to change from Bluepoint Fish Club to Bar Louie after a year," he declared, which defies logic even if it's true. Another explanation came from a server who made the transition from Bluepoint to Bar Louie: Bluepoint simply wasn't attracting enough customers to make the cavernous, 245-seat restaurant profitable, she said.

Bar Louie, which opened in June, retains vestiges of Bluepoint's menu, including gumbo, jambalaya, fish tacos, calamari, shrimp Po'Boys, and spinach and artichoke appetizers. Gone are the raw bar, lobsters, steaks, and most of the grilled fish choices. In their place are less elaborate appetizers, pizzas, sandwiches, and entrees, several of them accompanied by mango quesadilla salsa and black beans and rice. The physical setting appears to be the same except for the addition of two pool tables a stone's throw from the huge bar.

Our visits provided a mixed bag, from a pricey, mediocre

cheeseburger ($8.99) with a tasteless pink-green tomato on top to an excellent entre of tilapia ($10.99) with chipotle lime butter, lemon, and steamed broccoli. Sandwiches are generously stacked, among them the Vesuvio melt ($8.99), a combination of chicken, provolone, olive oil, and other fixings, and the turkey melt ($7.99) loaded with bacon on multi grain bread. The $8.99 Luigi, billed as a steak sandwich, isn't steak at all but shredded beef.

Appetizers here are billed as "small plates,'' including mini-sized cheeseburger, turkey, ranchero chicken, barbecue pork, and Philly steak sliders ($6.99-$7.99). The Philly steaks, four to a plate and stacked with tomatoes, cheese, and fried onions, were enough food for two. Another dish, Louie's mac & cheese ($8.99), is made with four cheeses advertised to be baked

golden brown. Ours wasn't, but it tasted fine, especially with the addition of shrimp for $5 more.

What if Bar Louie doesn't work out for Restaurants-America in Perrysburg? Well, there are plenty of relief pitchers to step into the breech: Red Star Tavern, Extra Virgin, The Grillroom, One North, and several other eateries also fly the corporation's banner around the country.

Contact Bill of Fare at fare@theblade.com



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