Soup's off; chicken's on. This week marks the debut of Lou's Food Bar, specializing in Nashville-style hot chicken, at 701 Grant Street, the former home of Bones.
Chef/restaurateur Frank Bonanno retooled his ramen bar with a faster, cheaper menu of salads, chicken sandwiches, baskets of chicken tenders and homestyle sides (don't miss the banana pudding with ’nilla wafers). The concept originated after the chef traveled to Nashville several years ago, ate his way through the city's top fried chicken joints and returned to Denver to add the Nashville specialty to the menu at Lou's Food Bar, his Sunnyside eatery, in 2012.
While Lou's closed in 2017, the fried chicken found new life when Denver Milk Market launched last summer, with Lou's Hot and Naked as one of more than a dozen food and beverage counters inside the downtown food hall. Bonanno says the fried chicken has been the top-selling item at Milk Market, making it a natural fit for Governor's Park, where the interest in Bones was seasonal (steaming bowls of ramen weren't big summer sellers) and dinner-oriented.
At the new Lou's, the lower price point and fast-casual service seem more in line with the neighborhood's dining habits. Sandwiches range from $6.50 to $8.50, salads can be had for as low as $6, and sides — mac and cheese, tater tots or corn on the cob, for example — all ring in at $3. And on Sundays, $25 will land you a full fried chicken dinner with side and dessert.
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If you frequented Bones, you'll notice that the dining room and open kitchen haven't changed much. There's a big chicken painted on the far wall, and antique wooden shutters up front near the order counter. Dewy beer cans beckon from a cooler beneath the counter. So your money's going toward juicy chicken in generous portions, not fancy decor. That's okay, though, because Bonanno can still do fancy at Mizuna and Luca, if folks on the block need a posh night out.
Lou's Food Bar is in soft-opening mode for the next few days before the grand-opening celebration on Friday, July 26. Be one of the first fifty customers in line and you'll win a $25 Lou's gift certificate. There will also be music, $2 cans of beer and a hot chicken-eating contest.
Lou's is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Visit the Bonanno Concepts website for details about all the restaurants and bars in the group.