Chef Ryan Lachaine has opened up a new sandwich mecca. (Photo by Kirsten Gilliam.)
Louie's chicken parmesan (Photo by Kirsten Gilliam)
Louie's chicken caprese sandwich (Photo by Kirsten Gilliam)
Louie's fried fish sandwich (Photo by Kirsten Gilliam)
Louie's Italian sub shows the substance of these new Houston sandwiches. (Photo by Kirsten Gilliam)
Louie's potato salad shows its sides power. (Photo by Kirsten Gilliam)
Louie's turkey club (Photo by Kirsten Gilliam)
Louie's side dishes are no mere second thoughts. (Photo by Kirsten Gilliam)
Louie's Italian sub (Photo by Kirsten Gilliam)
Louie's brings a menu of more than sandwiches, too. (Photo by Kirsten Gilliam)
Louie's fried fish sandwich puts fast food joints like McDonald's to shame. (Photo by Kirsten Gilliam)
With the coronavirus pandemic crippling the restaurant industry, opening a new spot brings more risk than ever. That is not stopping one of Houston’s best chefs, Ryan Lachaine, from getting creative. The owner of Riel has opened a new sandwich shop called Louie’s within his current restaurant.
If the first few days of selling sandwiches are any indication, Louie’s could quickly be building a following too. Lachaine tells PaperCity he sold hundreds of sandwiches on the second day Louie’s was open.
Opening a new ghost restaurant (takeout only) within his already existing restaurant was not a hard decision.
“I’ve wanted to have a sandwich shop and with what’s going on right now it gives me the opportunity to do it out of here,” Lachaine says.
The chef describes it as a “concept within a concept.” Louie’s is a ghost restaurant using Riel’s already existing kitchen. Two restaurants in one location? Yes, please.
The move allows Chef Lachaine to expand beyond Riel’s and make the most of the established bistro’s space. “We don’t do lunch,” Lachaine says of Riel. “We do dinner only here and with limited seating, we wanted to do something we could push and share.”
Like Riel’s, Louie’s draws on the chef’s Canadian roots (Lachaine is from Winnipeg) with tasty classics like poutine on the menu. The new sandwich shop is bringing some Canadian cuisine and flavors to Houston.
“There’s a Nanaimo bar and we have a pizza sub on the menu. I don’t know what it is, but like every sandwich and sub place in Winnipeg has a pizza sub on it so we put one here,” Lachaine says.
Louie’s sandwich offerings include a B.L.T., a turkey club, an Italian sub, pizza sub, chicken caprese, chicken parmesan, fried fish and crispy pork. Riel’s butter burgers (with two for $12); chopped cheese sliders and crawfish rolls; mixed green, caesar and chopped Italian salads; and a array of sides (poutine, potato salad, pasta salad, coleslaw and fries) are also available. For dessert, there are Riel’s signature sticky toffee pudding and Nanaimo Bars, a Canadian treat made of chocolate, coconut custard and almond that Lachaine typically only offers on Canada Day at Riel.
Music City Maestro
Bringing a taste of the cool North down to the hot South isn’t the only major project Lachaine is taking on. He’s headed to Nashville (while keeping his Houston base) to lead the restaurant at Music City’s hottest new hotel, Virgin Hotels Nashville. Lachaine’s title is culinary director of the Commons Club, the hip hotel’s showcase restaurant, but it’s even more far reaching than that.
“They’re giving me the sole range of the kitchen,” Lachaine tells PaperCity. “I can do whatever I want — so absolutely, you’ll see a lot of Riel out there and you’ll see a lot of Gulf Coast stuff on the menu.”
In the midst of the pandemic, it’s hard for Lachaine to see some beloved Houston restaurants struggling. He’s doing his best to weather the storm and innovate.
“It’s been good, we’ve been doing it for enough time now that it’s been OK,” Lachaine says of how Riel is doing. “Like today with opening up Louie’s.”
Now, Chef Lachaine and his crew face a different obstacle (albeit a much more happy one) — taking on the task of running two successful restaurants out of one location.
“Now we have to figure out how to prep for dinner while we’re putting out (sandwiches),” Lachaine says. “We sold literally hundreds of sandwiches yesterday so we have to adjust to that. It’s literally two different restaurants.”
And one very innovative chef.