Things were hopping that night at Lou & Mickey's, located at the tail end of the Gaslamp near the Convention Center. Crowds were streaming in from a large meeting at the center, across the street. Members of the San Diego Concierge Association were in the bar, sipping drinks, eating munchies and scoping out the place to be able to give their hotel guests informed opinions.
Lou & Mickey's sounds like it should be an Irish bar. Don't let the name fool you. It is an elegant seafood and steakhouse emporium that serves excellent cuisine in a lovely setting.
Lou & Mickey's is the new name and concept given to a site that was originally developed at great cost by King's Seafood Co. It was originally known as Royale Brasserie and built new to look old. Money was no object in the design of the beautifully crafted, inlaid tile floors or to the extensive use of wood paneling throughout. Wine is displayed on intricately carved racks. A walk-in refrigerated room with glass walls houses columns of wine bottles, all at the perfect temperature. An oyster counter greets visitors by the door, whetting one's appetite for those unique taste sensations. The kitchen is open to all who wish to walk by and look in. It is so clean one could "eat off the floor." The original restaurant, Royale Brasserie, looked absolutely terrific.
But it didn't work. So the company went back to the drawing board and came back with a winner, Lou & Mickey's. The executive chef, Hans-Trevor Gossman, created a new menu that would please a wide range of palates. Jason Klingsberg, the general manager, explained, "We want to be able to offer something for everyone. There is at least one dish on the menu that anyone could order. All the fish is fresh daily. All the meat is prime. Service is attentive. Hospitality is most important to us."
Why "Lou & Mickey's"? Even though the company, King's Seafood, has grown quite large, it is still run by a small family. It all began over 50 years ago, when Lou and Mickey, two brothers, left their homes in the Midwest to venture to California. Eventually, they joined together to open a restaurant. Then they opened another and another. They ultimately sold their successful chain of six restaurants.
Their children, Jeff and Sam, grew up in the business and started their own operation. In a short number of years, they have grown a chain of 11 restaurants in Southern California under six different brands, including King's Seafood, Water Grill, I Cugini and others. Another King's Seafood is soon to open in Carlsbad. Each of their brands has distinctive decor, menu and concept, showing the entrepreneurship and creativity of the family. The name given to this elegant location, Lou & Mickey's, was to honor their fathers, the family founders.
The appetizers include mostly seafood such as Rare Yellowfin Tuna, Jumbo Lump Crab Cake and Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail. The Iced Shellfish Platter includes oysters, shrimp, clams, crab and lobster.
Lobster bisque, one of the two soups on the menu (the other was New England clam chowder) was a rich, creamy broth that did not have the heavy buttery consistency that is so common. Rather, the strong taste of lobster came through -- different, genuine and delicious.
Entrees include seafood, pastas, chicken, steaks and combo dishes. The seafood, fresh daily, includes mahi mahi, Pacific swordfish and Alaskan halibut T-bone that was tempting. Prime meats, which are the top grade, are beautifully marbled and easy to cut. The best meat dishes are those prepared bone in, because cooking with the bone adds flavor and substance to the cut. My Cowboy Steak, a blackened 20-ounce, bone-in ribeye, was wonderfully tasty.
Side dishes are ala carte. Saut?©ed mushrooms came button size in a butter sauce. Steamed broccoli was tall, green, leafy and full of good health. Everything went well with the full-bodied cabernet sauvignon that I selected by the glass from the extensive wine list.
Desserts are made in house daily. The cr?©me brulee was traditional, with dark, sugary crust. King's key lime pie had the full homemade flavor that I've grown to love. The traditional hot fudge sundae was a fulfilling blend of ice cream and chocolate.
Lou & Mickey's is expensive. Prime meat and fresh seafood is pricey. But the setting is delightful for a romantic evening, or a corporate party in the large banquet area. Dinner is well worth the money.
Lou & Mickey's is located at 224 Fifth Ave. It is open for dinner only. Reservations are recommended. Call (619) 237-4900 for reservations or information.
Rottenberg is editor of Dining San Diego Magazine and member of the California Restaurant Writers Association.