It's a bar, so stick to bar food.
The newest edition of the national Bar Louie chain recently opened in the Walden Galleria, and it proves to be a handsome, bustling place. While the weather holds, large overhead doors open to the elements. We counted at least four flat screens; there are comfy round booths, handsome floors and contemporary artwork.
And, not surprisingly, there's an extensive menu of exotic drinks, including a S'more Martini -- vanilla vodka, chocolate liqueur, toasted marshmallow syrup, cream, floating mini-marshmallows and chocolate syrup with a graham cracker rim. It's almost enough to make you join the Girl Scouts (or quit them). Plenty of wines and beers are available, too.
But, we repeat: If you want to eat, stick to snacky items. We really loved our tempura shrimp ($9.99), served in the kind of conical vessel often used for french fries. On the side there were chopsticks and three little dipping sauces: sweet, "Buffalo" and a seriously spicy Szechwan. The shrimp themselves were crisp and fresh.
And we loved the Sliders ($7.99), little sandwiches served on teeny tiny burger buns. There are several different varieties on the menu, and we went for the Philly steak enhanced with tomatoes and provolone. Four of these babies turned up on the plate, garnished with fried onion strings. Other kinds of sliders include turkey melt, cheeseburger and pot roast with mashed potatoes.
Then we went on to Big Plates. Baja fish tacos ($11.99) were made from tilapia, probably the least flavorful fish that ever entered water. It didn't help that it just lay there in pallid tortillas. Sure, the tacos were accompanied by chipotle mayo, black beans and rice and a pretty good mango salsa. Zzzzz. The taste buds remained stubbornly asleep.
Then there was the matter of the Yankee Pot Roast ($11.99), an oversauced mix of meat, carrots, peas and potatoes. That beef had the strangest texture. Was it mushy? Was it crunchy? Who knew?
I told the server that I couldn't eat it. To her credit and without our asking, it was removed from the check.
We needed something indulgent after that, so we opted for the extravagant Cookie Tini Sundae ($7.99), and it helped -- quite a lot. Served in a goblet large enough to float three goldfish (or one tilapia) were: freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, an indecently large scoop of ice cream, chocolate sauce and whipped topping. Two spoons, of course.
What else is on Louie's menu? There are 8-inch, thin-crusted pizzas, such as the Oriental chicken ($9.99). And there are sandwiches, such as the foot-long dog with chili and cheese ($8.99) or bacon and egg (two fried eggs, cheddar, bacon, etc., on sourdough; $7.99).
And there's every kind of burger known to man and salads like the Burger in a Bowl -- the meat served over iceberg, "bruschetta tomatoes" (a new botanical wonder), pickles, onion and cheese ($10.99) -- or Hong Kong chicken with romaine, charred corn, mandarin oranges, peanut ginger dressing, sesame seeds and wontons ($11.99).
2 stars (Out of 4)
WHERE: Walden Galleria, Cheektowaga (989-3950; www.barlouieamerica.com). The 48th location of a Chicago-based chain, this handsome bar offers large plates and small plates, salads and burgers, pizzas and sandwiches. Credit Cards: American Express, MasterCard, Visa.
FAVORITE DISH: Tempura shrimp
NEEDS WORK: Yankee Pot Roast
PRICE RANGE: Small plates from $5.99; large plates from $9.99.
SERVICE: Very good.
HOURS: Seven days, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. No reservations.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes PARKING: Parking lot or ramp.
RATINGS: Stars reflect the overall dining experience at the time of The News' visit -- including service, ambience, innovation and cost -- with greatest weight given to quality of the food.