Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler—Let the Good Times Roll at Louie’s Cajun Kitchen & Bourbon Bar
If you don’t know the Cajun phrase “laissez bons temps rouler”—let the good times roll—then you soon will when you enter Louie’s Cajun Kitchen & Bourbon Bar in Downtown Santa Cruz. It’s painted on the vibrant murals that cover the walls of this spacious restaurant. Brightly colored scenes of New Orleans run from one end to the other, adding an abundance of pizzazz and atmosphere.
Restaurant owners Lou and Christi Caviglia are thrilled with the artwork, but it was sheer happenstance that this explosion of color came about, Lou says. Local artist Taylor Reinhold was in the restaurant one day, and he and Lou got talking about Reinhold’s murals. “He said, ‘Let me blow up your walls,’” laughs Lou. And that was the start of the restaurant’s transformation.
Taylor Reinhold, Jasper Marino, Carl Quale and Elijah Pfotenhauer belong to Made Fresh Collective, a group of artists who specialize in murals. Working every night when the restaurant closed so as not to disturb customers, the four of them took two weeks to complete the artwork on Louie’s Cajun Kitchen walls back in the summer of 2012. Reinhold is proud of the work he and his team members completed, but he is even prouder of the community murals and teaching that Made Fresh Collective does with at-risk youth in Watsonville.
The murals are packed with vibrant scenes of New Orleans—complete with trumpet and trombone players and more. As you walk from one end of the restaurant to the other, it’s as if you are taking a stroll down Bourbon Street—the center of action in this swinging musical city. Even iconic New Orleans blues singer and pianist Professor Longhair is in the mural.
“That’s the real skyline of New Orleans,” says Lou, as he describes sections of the artwork. “There’s a local surfboard—and there’s also some hanky-panky in there,” he laughs, “but you’ll have to find that for yourself. It’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever been part of,” Lou adds, “and I just love it. It creates a mood like I’ve never seen.”
The Caviglias originally opened Clouds Downtown in 1994 and operated the restaurant for 18 years before they transformed it into Louie’s Cajun Kitchen. Now, their youngest son, Giovanni Caviglia, aged 23, is at the helm in the kitchen, having started honing his natural talents for cooking at Clouds when he was 8 years old.
With its new menu and upbeat vibe, Louie’s is a fun place to visit to enjoy a dinner of Cajun-style food or one of their specialty drinks at the lively bar. One of the most popular, of course, is the N’Awlins Hurricane, a five-rum infusion with three fruit juices “and more rum!”—or a Louie’s Mint Julep with Buffalo Trace Bourbon muddled with lime, fresh mint and sugar, topped with a splash of soda.
Bourbon Flights are offered, too, each flight of three with a different name. Try the ‘Call a Cab’ ($15) or the ‘Tennessee’s Finest’ ($12). Louie’s also mixes up some fabulous martinis. Try the ‘Big Louie Rita’ with Herradura Blanco Tequila ($8), or the ‘Beach Bum’ made with a blend of mango and pineapple rum. Wines by the glass or bottle are offered at reasonable prices – as well as premium beers on tap or bottled.
And when it’s time to eat, Louie’s serves up some very tasty food. Never tried fried okra? Well, now’s your chance. And try the Shrimp & Crawfish Jambalaya; Gumbo Z’herbes; Fried Oysters; Blackened Prawn Salad; Boudin Meatballs, Fried Grits; and, of course, everybody’s favorite – Catfish.
A Mardi Gras Menu is offered, a three-course prix fixe menu of different selections for $25, including the famous New Orleans Beignets for dessert. “We ran it during restaurant week,” says Christi, “and it was so popular that we continued it.”
Let the good times roll, indeed.
Louie’s Cajun Kitchen & Bourbon Bar, 110 Church St., Santa Cruz, 429-2000, louiescajunkitchen.com. For more information on Made Fresh Collective, visit them on Facebook.