Chef Ryan Angulo and owner Doug Crowell already happened upon a winning formula with their popular Brooklyn bistro, Buttermilk Channel (Jay Z and Beyonce are regulars, and the wait times during brunch are some of the longest in the borough). While essentially a New American restaurant, with communal tables and elevated comfort foods like Chicken and Cheddar Waffles and Duck Meatloaf, there’s still a good deal of French influence and execution involved.
That’s why they elected to flip the script only slightly with their long anticipated (five years!) follow up project, French Louie, with a boîte that’s yes, largely French, but with a smidge of American flavor and flair. “French Louie draws its inspiration from the bistros of Paris, as well as French American settlements like New Orleans,” Angulo explains. “At Buttermilk Channel, we offer American comfort food using some French techniques and local products. Here (French Louie) we focus on French comfort food using some American products, like Rancho Gordo beans and local cheeses.”
Design-wise, French Louie incorporates many classic brasserie elements, including a brass and mirrored bar, followed by long rows of banquettes and round, marble tables with sconces hanging overhead. And Angulo’s menu (divided into “Petits,” “La Mer,” “Ler,” and “Steak Frites” is inarguably European, exemplified by crunchy Anchovy Frites, warm Gougeres, musky Pork & Rabbit Rillettes, Mussels Piperade, and Lamb Neck Daube with Omelet and Escarole. That being said, Angulo’s occasional lapses into American territory are equally delicious, especially a dish of Snails sautéed with House-Cured Pork Belly and Local Oysters, served over Falls Mill Grits. We also spoke to Angulo about his other favorite Brooklyn restaurants, the strangest item in his home pantry, and his reaction to being voted one of Eater’s “Hottest Chefs!”
Did you always want to be a chef, growing up?
Since I was about 16, I wanted to be a chef. Before that it was the usual: Indiana Jones, a Marine, Batman.
What job would you say really kick-started your career?
My first job as a dishwasher at Pawtucket Country Club. One of the best experiences of my teens.
What’s the best piece of advice that you’ve ever received from a chef friend or mentor?
“Ya gotta love it, or else it really sucks” – Terrance Brennan
If you were to eat at French Louie as a guest, what would you order and why?
I would be able to make many meals from the menu. I don’t serve food I wouldn’t eat myself. Everything on the menu here and at Buttermilk are things I love to eat. Tonight I plan on having Steak Tartare and Profiteroles. Last night, I had Snails and Gougeres.
What was your reaction to being voted as one of New York’s hottest chefs on Eater last year? Do you appreciate the attention or have your friends and family teased you mercilessly?
My reaction was total surprise. It was not something I ever expected to be associated with.
What’s the strangest thing in your home kitchen right now?
Instant Jello Pudding.
What ingredient can you just not bring yourself to cook with (or eat?)
What are some of your favorite restaurants in Brooklyn (besides your own) and why?
Tanoreen, Vinegar Hill House, Reynard, Brooklyn Crab Shack, Littleneck, The Dogwood, Ho Brah, Fast And Fresh Burrito, Mile End, Roberta’s, Battersby, Good Fork, Rucola, Ki Sushi; I could keep going. There’s too many that I like a lot.
What current food trends do you really get behind, and which do you wish would just die already?
I’m not really up on food trends as of late, but I don’t mind any of them. Trends keep people interested and talking about food and trying new things.
What do you consider to be your greatest career accomplishment thus far?
My greatest career accomplishment at the moment is French Louie. It really feels good.
You’re on your deathbed; sex or dinner? And no, you can’t say both!
Hopefully I am good and old by the time I am on my deathbed, so I think I’ll opt for dinner rather than Viagra.