The notion of metamorphosis frequently conjures images of poor Gregor Samsa who, in Franz Kafka's famous short story, wakes up one morning to find he has transformed into a giant cockroach. Louie's Corner Café, the new incarnation and location for 8:15 Early, has taken the opposite approach.
The elegant little building, situated at the corner of W. Alameda and Galisteo streets, once contained the fledgling promise of the Mediterranean Café. It has spent the last several years drooping from a gem into a degenerate gangster bar and then a rug shop and, finally, a sad, empty building in need of genuine metamorphosis. The building was a cockroach, but it woke up recently to find it had transformed into Louie's Corner Café.
The aggressively bright and happy-go-lucky decorating scheme isn't for everyone, but it probably was necessary to go overboard to accomplish a successful exorcism. When SFR included Louie's as one of our 40 favorites in the 2009/2010 Restaurant Guide, it was because of our long-standing love affair with 8:15 Early and the knowledge that the menu would be translated to the new location.
But the expanded slate of offerings demonstrates that 8:15, too, has cracked out of its own chrysalis. Instead of a tiny café and sandwich shop that serves particularly good baked goods, Louie's is a full-fledged breakfast and lunch flagship that delivers everything from burritos to burgers, crepes to cappuccino, French toast to fresh salads and most things in between.
I originally questioned the wisdom of using a fluffy little dog (Louie belongs to co-owner Robin Hardie) for a namesake and a mascot. Winsome quaintness aside, Santa Fe is an international tourist destination. What if visitors from more, uh, liberal culinary cultures get the wrong idea about menu options? Also, my own dog, apparently dissatisfied with the texture of the meals I prepare for him, is in the habit of eating each meal twice, if you know what I mean—a practice that I think of as unappetizing.
It's not so much that I decided the name makes good sense as much as I simply lost the will to care midway through my Emilio Estevez breakfast panino. That's right—give me bacon, blue and cheddar cheese, onions, green chile and a fried egg on fresh-baked sourdough surrounded by a bed of greens, pungent with soil and citrus, and my eyes will drift to a crossed position and my leg will tremble just like Louie's when he's getting a belly scratch.
Santa Fe has plenty of reliable breakfast joints, but Louie's inventive use of fresh ingredients and its cheeseball and innuendo-filled attitude toward the menu fills a genuine niche. Among crepes, for example, one can choose the Honey Pot (pecans and brandy cream cheese drizzled with honey) or the Fluffer (strawberries and chocolate ganache topped with—yes—whipped cream). There's a spinach salad called the Girly Boy and a two-egg breakfast named Cockadoodle Do Me.
With multiple meals named for celebrities, such as the Kevin Bacon Lettuce and Tomato and the LYLE Gotta Lovett (liverwurst!) sandwiches, there's something of a lowbrow Carlos' Gosp'l Café (RIP) vibe going on. Sadly, there's no hangover stew, but there is the more keenly targeted Walk of Shame—"a big a** plate" of deep-fried potatoes, sausage, red onions and green chile, topped with any style of eggs and smothered in melted cheddar cheese. The delicious migas plate—dubbed Cunning Amigas—should be greedily consumed by straight couples as well, despite its punny implication.
A beer and wine application has been filed with the slow-moving wheels of government, so by next summer, Louie's should be a prime location for a beer on the patio or a couple of glasses of wine with dinner—also in the works.
Bold prediction: a local legend in the making.
Louie's Corner Café
Open7 am-4 pm daily
229 Galisteo St.