Louie, Louie: A distinguished comeback for a classic dish
Seattle Chef Ethan Stowell brings the straightforward dish back his way at Chippy’s Fish and Drink, Stowell’s new Ballard seafood bar.
Special to The Seattle Times
FOR A DISH with such Seattle connections, it’s become surprisingly rare to find a great Louis salad on restaurant menus.
The fresh, seafood-rich trendsetter of the early 20th century, credited in some accounts to Seattle’s Olympic Club (and in other accounts to San Francisco venues), was suggested as a perfect apres-opera dish in a 1931 Seattle Times column. When a Times reporter interviewed a visiting actress in 1936, he reported that she begged the Olympic Hotel waiter “will you very, very quickly bring me some crab Louis?”
Maybe it’ll take another trendsetter to bring the Louis back. Ethan Stowell, whose restaurant empire stretches from ballpark fare to high-end feasts, spotlighted both shrimp and crab Louies (both spellings are common) on the opening menu of Chippy’s Fish and Drink, his new seafood bar in Ballard.
“It’s almost like a retro dish. It’s kind of been synonymous with tourist restaurants — I don’t mind. I’ll just do mine the way it is. Obviously, we’re in Ballard, we’re not going after tourists,” Stowell said recently behind the Chippy’s counter.
Well, who can tell with Ballard these days. But looking at the bright, appealing Louie that Chippy’s dishes up, it’s hard to imagine why it ever fell out of favor. Price would be an obvious reason for the crab version’s downfall. But bay shrimp still seems like a mainstream deal.
On Stowell’s side, he wonders if the mix of lettuce, seafood, hard-boiled egg, tomatoes and Thousand Island-like dressing also isn’t hampered by its very straightforwardness.
“I love simple dishes like this. A lot of times, chefs feel like they’re not being creative enough, not being chef-ly enough” when they keep it basic.
But basic was what he wanted with Chippy’s, which also specializes in other classics. With another restaurant literally next door, the aptly named Staple & Fancy with its escolar crudo and wood-grilled whole fish, he couldn’t just duplicate what was already available.
“You have to do something completely different,” he said.
Stowell went for “a nice clean way” to present the dish, winding up with a handful of each ingredient arranged on an oval plate, resting on little gem lettuces rather than traditional iceberg.
“You distinctly see that the avocado’s fresh, it’s not mixed in, the cucumber is nicely, freshly cut. In the summertime when Billy’s tomatoes are around we’ll probably dice up Billy’s tomatoes on it instead of these ones,” he said.
The dressing? Homemade mayonnaise, a bit of lemon juice and plain old Heinz chili sauce.
Oregon Bay Shrimp Louie
Makes 1 entree or 2 starter salads
For the dressing
¼ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon chili sauce (Heinz recommended)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
For the salad
1 small head little gem lettuce (baby romaine), cleaned and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of kosher salt
6 ounces fresh Oregon bay shrimp, squeezed of excess liquid
15 grape tomatoes
½Persian cucumber, cut into ½-inch half moons (English cucumber is a fine substitute)
½ avocado, diced
1 hard-boiled egg, quartered
1 lemon, cut into wedges
1. To make the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, chili sauce and lemon juice until well incorporated. Set aside.
2. To prepare the salad: Toss lettuce with lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil, and season with a pinch of kosher salt. Place the lettuce on a plate and top with the shrimp, tomato, cucumber, avocado and egg. Garnish with lemon wedge and a side of Louie dressing.
— courtesy of Ethan Stowell Restaurants
Rebekah Denn is a freelance food writer who regularly contributes to The Seattle Times blog All You Can Eat. John Lok is a Times staff photographer.