Doug Crowell and chef Ryan Angulo have charmed crowds with Buttermilk Channel (524 Court Street, Brooklyn, 718-852-8490), the American bistro they opened five years ago in Carroll Gardens. Now they’ll have a chance to woo a different neighborhood with French Louie (320 Atlantic Avenue, 718-935-1200), the French American spot they opened in Boerum Hill last week. “We’d been looking casually for a space for a second restaurant for a long time,” says Crowell. “We found this magical space. It was a perfect spot — so I just had to figure out what I wanted to do with it.”
And so the duo is pulling from its roots, but it’s not simply recreating its flagship restaurant in a new neighborhood. “We always called Buttermilk Channel an American bistro,” Crowell explains. “To me, a bistro is a place in an urban city where you’re eating food from the country. The Buttermilk Channel menu looks like a bistro menu from the distance — there are things that change frequently and things that always stay the same — so it’s a French format but with American cuisine. At French Louie, we’re starting with a French menu and adding American influences.”
Some of the dishes on the list come from Angulo’s very personal experiences in Paris; the roast duck breast “allard,” for instance, which matches the poultry to green olives, comes from a restaurant the chef and his wife loved in the City of Light (it’s also a traditional bistro dish). “It’s true to the dish and brings in components of duck a l’orange,” says Crowell. “But we do it in a smaller portion for one.” For traditional French, Crowell also points to the lamb neck daube, served with a simple omelet.
Many of the dishes, though, sport American touches. The Tennessee country ham wrapping the terrine of foie gras, for instance. Or the crab dirty rice that comes with the pan-fried skate, which pulls influence from New Orleans, where French and American culture have long mingled seamlessly. There’s a steak frites section on the menu, which features a lamb blade chop alongside more traditional cuts. And there are also a number of vegetarian dishes on the list, since Buttermilk Channel is known for its vegetarian list. “We’re not French, so we’re doing sort of what makes sense,” says Crowell of the board.
The food pairs to a French- and American-heavy wine list plus cocktails that are French (or at least French-ish), too. See the French 75 — a blend of cognac, lemon, and champagne — or the Normandy old fashioned made with calvados. Beers on tap and in bottle are craft selections from the States and Europe, and you’ll find a pair of ciders — one French — on the board, too.
In terms of the space, “We set out to make a place that’s not culturally French,” says Crowell. They enlisted the help of designer Joseph Foglia — whose credits include Dressler, Butter, and Parish Hall — who built out a room with mahogany, marble, and satiny brass. Plush banquettes line the walls and antique sconces hang from the ceiling. “Joseph was really creative about finding things on the street,” says Crowell. “It doesn’t look reclaimed, though there are lots of reclaimed elements.” There’s also a woodsy black-and-white mural on one wall, created by illustrator Owen Brozman.
For Crowell, this new restaurant is a bit of a homecoming. “It’s closer to home than Buttermilk Channel, and it’s a very lively neighborhood,” he says. “It’s a big beautiful space in a place that I knew.”
French Louie is open from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Sunday, and it will add lunch and brunch sometime soon. Come spring, the restaurant will also open its backyard garden.
Hit the next page for a few photos.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 3, 2014