By Tara Bennett
If you go to Louie’s Café at 3 a.m., it would not be unusual to see a line waiting to get in through the doors. Since opening in 1941, Louie’s Café has been an after-hours hotspot for LSU students and Baton Rouge residents.
From the black and white checkered floors, to the painted murals, and open kitchen, Louie’s classic diner ambiance, all-day menu and friendly staff have helped the diner acquire local icon status. Louie’s owner Jimmy Whetherford says the diner has become a dining staple due to the quality ingredients, the friendly service, and for staying open 24 hours.
“It’s very gratifying,” said Whetherford of the diner’s popularity. “I enjoy working with young people, and having a really dedicated staff that likes their job, and having fantastic customers that really enjoy coming here. We must be doing something right.”
On any given night, Louie’s Café can be seen filled with LSU students either taking a break from their all-nighters or filling up their bellies after a night out at the bar.
“It’s just part of the experience of going to LSU,” said LSU alumna Kim Mansur. “Before you graduate, you’ve gone to Louie’s drunk a few times at 3 a.m.”
The under 40 crowd is particularly drawn to the hotspot because of its laid-back, funky atmosphere while still maintaining quality service and strong ties to the community.
“I love that they are more concerned with food and service than making their employees look like this antiquated notion of professional,” said Kristy Ann Brandon, resident of Baton Rouge. “The staff is always very professional and friendly, as well as having some awesome tattoos, piercings and hair. They are locally connected and a part of the community, with local events and happenings on their billboard. When the UNO student was missing, a flyer was there. They may not have put those things up themselves, or maybe they did, but there was a place for them to be.”
“I wouldn’t call the food good per se but it’s not bad,” said Grove, resident of Baton Rouge. “It’s cheapish and there’s a certain funkiness and that, along with the hand drawn murals, give it a distinct personality that’s rarely found in chain restaurant haven BR.”
“You’d be hard-pressed to find something as tasty as the Spanish omelet, the Phyllis, or the Big Cheesy Lou with a side of super hash browns anywhere else, in Baton Rouge or elsewhere,” said Adrienne Zetty, one of Louie’s loyal customers. “But it’s not only the food. I think what I love most about Louie’s is the atmosphere; the energy of the slightly punk rock wait staff, the colorful commentary and incisive, if not bawdy, wit of Fred and Frenchie as they hustle behind the counter, the bemusement of the customer as they watch and wait for their good eats to arrive. The food is delicious, sure, but the spirit of the place is what sets it apart.”
Soon though Fred and Frenchie will be frying eggs in a new location, as Louie’s Café will relocate from its current home on Chimes Street to the old Wendy’s location on State Street.
“The relocation is a beautiful thing,” said Matt Harrison, resident of Baton Rouge. “The problem with Louie’s was that they had a fair amount of seating, but only like, three parking spaces. And if you park anywhere else close to there, Riverside Towing will be there to let you know the magnitude of your mistake.”
According to Whetherford, the parking situation had always been a tricky one. While metered parking and paid parking was made available, there was also plenty of restricted parking, which lead to many customers having to park several blocks away and walk to the diner.
“That’s the main reason we moved there,” said Whetherford of the new location, which will increase Louie’s parking space from four spots to 32, and increased seating for up to 90 people.
Currently the announcement of the move has remained positive, due to the additional parking that will be provided at the new location, which will not be too far from its current home.
“I don’t mind it moving since it’s going to a bigger location while staying in the same location,” said Grove.
“I’m pumped about the relocation, to be honest,” said Mansur. “It’ll be so much easier to actually eat there without risk of getting towed for parking illegally. It’s going to be the best.”
“I think it’s wonderful news,” said Zetty. “Obviously, the limited parking was a serious constraint for them, and the importance of adding 30+ spaces can’t be overstated. I’ve heard a few grumbles about some essential quality being lost in the move to the new building, but I don’t pay much mind to those naysayers. I think the ambiance and experience people have come to expect from Louie’s is due to some magical combination of consistently delicious food and the talented, quirky folks who work there, not the brick and mortar building itself. I’m confident that the new place will have that classic-yet-funky diner feel, and that the chefs and wait staff will rise to the occasion and offer up even more tastiness and hospitality.”
According to Whetherford, Louie’s new location will still possess the qualities that made it a haven to so many.
“We will recreate the open kitchen with the counter and stools, keep the same color scheme and black and white tile floors,” said Whetherford. “And we’ll also still have Frenchie and Fred.”