Those who loved their Cloud’s martini have nothing to worry about: the full martini menu remains. But that’s about it.
Clouds Downtown is now a distant memory, thanks to the 18-year-itch that made owners Christie and Louie Caviglia decide to trade in the chic for a much needed dose of “N’awlins.”
Walking into Louie’s Cajun Kitchen and Bourbon Bar means being embraced by the lively spirit of Mardi Gras, then slowly seduced with 40 types of bourbon, and the kind of soul food that burns itself into your memory and haunts you for life with just a single bite.
“It was thought of as kind of swanky, you know, and it was, but it was a restaurant that was done 18 years ago, it was dated. We just wanted to lighten up everything, you know, from the service, the pricing, the sensibility of it,” said Louie.
And lighten up, they did. Now, just three weeks into the new digs, they couldn’t be happier with the transformation. And there’s reason for Santa Cruz to be happy, too: Ladies and Gentlemen, we now have ourselves a real slice of Bourbon street, complete with a piano bar and musical murals that wrap around the entire dining room, down the hall, and into the bathrooms.
“They just did such a great job,” said Christie, of the artists of Made Fresh Crew, Taylor Reinhold and Jasper Marino, who are now at Burning Man and will complete the very last section of wall, a tribute to Natasha Noland, when they return.
Little voodoo dolls peak out from the behind the bar, Mardi Gras beads glisten from shadows, masks and musical instruments remind us that life is fleeting, and you might as well celebrate it while you can.
But even with the heartfelt setting, it wouldn’t feel quite like New Orleans without bold, stick-to-your-ribs soul food, and Christie and Louie’s son Giovanni, sous chef at Louie’s Cajun Kitchen, surely delivers:
You’ll find spicy cheesy grits topped with barbecued shrimp, crawdads, PoBoys, Jambalaya, catfish, and many more classics on the menu. The best selling menu item thus far? The Pulled Pork Sandwich.
“It’s kind of funny because it’s so good, people come in and have it like twice a week,” said Louie.
“The whole resurgence of Cajun food is, I think, with a healthy twist now, you know we have kale and healthy greens and things that aren’t all cooked in lard,” said Louie.
With an “ever expanding” collection of American bourbon (40 labels and counting) the place embodies that warm and cozy feeling, the kind it’s okay to sneak off to for a couple of hours while you’re supposed to be at work.
“It kind of just fits in with what we’re doing and it’s kind of a trendy thing, people are drinking more bourbon than ever now,” said Louie of his increased bourbon collection.
Without a doubt, the Caviglia’s have filled a void in Santa Cruz’s culinary scene.
“Cajun food and booze are like sugar and spice, they just go together,” Louie will tell you. He has a point. And with the loose and carefree blues echoing off the walls, it might be hard not to order one more.