First Look: SoLou opens in former Rum House space, nudging Louisiana flavors in new directions

A boudin quesadilla, a charcuterie board inspired by the muffaletta, and chicken and waffles with cane syrup butter and balsamic-marinated strawberries. Familiar ingredients from Louisiana’s culinary tableau taken in new directions is the intention behind SoLou, an original concept created by restaurateurs Peter Sclafani, Kiva Guidroz and Michael Boudreaux. It opens Monday, March 15, on Perkins Road in the space formerly occupied by The Rum House.

Entering diners are met with an expansive curved bar serving craft cocktails, artisan beers on tap and 26 wines by the glass. It’s a solid pit stop en route to a table in the main dining area, or one through glass garage doors to the live oak-draped patio outside. The restaurant is warm and hip, awash in white, black and teal, with quartz-topped tables and bentwood cafe chairs cushioned in tan leather. Xdesign and DNA Workshop guided SoLou’s branding and design, and Baton Rouge artist Marc Fresh painted Louisiana-inspired murals both on the patio wall and the building’s exterior. The vibe reads dressy-jeans and girl’s-night-out, but the adventurous comfort food menu has broad appeal.

“We want to serve craveable food,” Sclafani says, “the kind of dishes you’re still going to be thinking about the next day.”

SoLou’s Boudin Quesadilla

A tidy expression of that is SoLou’s grilled cheese, where melted brie and fontina lie between brioche with candied bacon jam. It’s served with a side of tomato basil soup.

“There’s something about those flavors that just make you feel good,” Sclafani says.

Sclafani built his reputation in steakhouse and Italian fine dining as the former chef partner of Ruffino’s, but like his recent projects (buying into and retooling Portobello’s, P-Beau’s and Phil’s), SoLou represents the chance to do something new.

Executive Chef Jourdan Fulbright, formerly of Cocha and Rocca, leads the kitchen, taking diners through shareable appetizers like crawfish beignets, charbroiled oysters and ceviche, and on to entrees simple and fancy. Feel like a gourmet burger or po-boy? No problem. Must have a filet mignon? SoLou’s is served with mashed potatoes and charred Brussels sprouts. Seafood gets its due with dishes like shrimp and stone ground grits, softshell crab amandine and the succulent fish in a bag, in which fresh speckled trout is cooked in parchment with vegetables and balsamic vinegar.

SoLou’s Fish in a Bag

For advice on salads to include, Sclafani conferred with his 21-year-old daughter, Kat. Her eponymous dish features grilled Gulf shrimp, mango, pecans, avocado, tomato and feta over baby spinach with sesame strips and mango vinaigrette. Seven other salads round out this section, including the Chicken Salad #2, rotisserie chicken tossed with mayhaw pepper jelly vinaigrette along with pork rind croutons for crunch. The sweet potato salad pairs the local tuber with arugula, fried bites of alligator and lardons with Creole honey mustard vinaigrette.

Sclafani says a longtime dream of his has been to serve tableside s’mores, and here, he finally gets his wish. The DIY dessert includes a homemade graham cracker cookie slathered in chocolate with a homemade marshmallow diners can skewer and toast over a mini-flame.

The restaurant is open daily and is at 7246 Perkins Road. For more information, visit eatsolou.com.