The limited budget of a college student usually affords a three-course meal consisting of crackers, Ramen noodles and a Tastykake … if you’re lucky.
So when I heard about a reasonably priced fine dining experience in Center City, I had to check it out.
Tipped off by a friend, I ventured to Loie Brassiere and Bar located at 128 19th Street, just off of Rittenhouse Square.
Loie is not your average Rittenhouse Square establishment.
Guests are welcomed by a warm bar area that leads into a two-tiered, vaulted ceiling dining room.
Plush seats surround cozy booths and those waiting for a table (and on a Saturday night, chances are you’ll have to wait) can have a drink at quaint cocktail tables.
Now that warmer weather is upon us, Loie offers limited outdoor seating.
The Art Noveau décor and smooth, jazzy tunes give Loie a relaxed, yet elegant atmosphere.
Loie is named for Loie Fuller, the 1800s version of the Diva.
Born in Chicago, she was a plain Jane who moved to Paris and developed a style of dance called “serpentine.”
This dance was characterized by long silk robes and twirling. Think Moulin Rouge, but more delicate.
These elements are embodied in silk curtains that hang across the rear wall of the dining room and twirled wooden beams that wind their way up the walls.
Vintage posters of the diva’s shows bedeck the walls. The serpentine style is further echoed in the ornate chandelier that hangs above the bar.
Loie’s menu appeals to the distinctive palate, yet is wonderful in its simplicity.
“Everything here moves very fast,” said Executive Chef Jeremy Duclut. “Things need to be done quickly. One step cooking. Keep it simple.”
Simple and elegant is the essence of the brasserie style. Loie’s menu is just that.
I opted for the salad Lyonnaise to start. The salad consisted of warm frisee (a curly French endive) with applewood-smoked bacon and topped with a poached egg.
What sounds like an unusual combination comes together splendidly.
The saltiness of the bacon, sweetness of the apple and the poached egg, flavored with pepper, made for quite the interesting salad experience.
Other dishes on the appetizer menu were equally as intriguing as the salad Lyonnaise.
“The goat cheese and roasted beet salad with toasted almonds is sublime,” said Temple University senior Aeriel Brown.
“It’s definitely worth going for.”
For my main course, I chose the Filet Mignon au Poivre.
The buttery filet of beef, covered in a green peppercorn sauce was tender enough to cut with my fork.
Chef Duclut’s piquant peppercorn concoction exploded in my mouth.
Accompanying my entrée was a side of potato gratin and sautéed spinach.
What my mother couldn’t do in 22 years, Duclut did in two minutes.
The spinach, sautéed in olive oil and garlic is a far cry from the green mess mom pushed on me.
One of life’s little pleasures is cracking the bronzed sugar crust that adorns the top of a crème brulee.
I capped off my dining experience with a delightfully creamy Tahitian vanilla bean take on the classic dessert.
The sweet custard, crisp sugar and tart berries came together in a ballet of flavors that danced across my tongue with each spoonful.
Despite my carnivorous experience, Loie isn’t strictly a steak and potatoes joint.
Duclut presents a variety of chicken and shellfish dishes. Vegetarians aren’t out of luck.
Loie offers a smashing grilled portabella mushroom sandwich. If that doesn’t suit your fancy, the kitchen staff is more than happy to accommodate you.
Loie’s staff was constantly attentive during my visit.
In five short weeks, General Manager Matt Heckler has compiled a crew that works together like a group of seasoned veterans.
Not once was my bread plate empty or my glass left unfilled.
Late nights are ruled by DJs at Loie. Seven days a week DJs spin an eclectic mix of music.
Fortunately for frugal college students, there’s never a cover. Major Taylor spins hip-hop on Saturdays.
But if you’re into funk and soul, check out Soul Travelin’ on Sunday nights.
Or just grab a drink and relax in the back room while shooting a game of pool.
The clientele is as varied as the residents of Center City.
During one visit, I witnessed a table of distinguished older women sitting in the next booth over from dreadlocked musicians, while a family of four dined at an adjoining table.
Macy Gray was even spotted there fresh off her performance last Thursday at the TLA.
So, if you’re looking for a night out on the town and want to throw around a little cash without breaking your bank account, give Loie a shot.
Take a stroll in the park and stop in for a drink, or dinner, or both.
Lucas K. Murray can be reached at Lukemurray33@yahoo.com.