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We hold as true that the real measure of any fish place is consistency. Lou Lou's hasn't been around long enough to provide us with enough data to make that call, but it gets a long way on atmosphere alone. Located in the old renovated private home that used to house Sassafras, the newest fish shack in town manages to capture the spirit of that descriptor without the smelly whiffs that often accompany such a place.
The wait staff is excellent: Their banter is nonintrusive and warm. They don't hover. They don't disappear. We waited tables in our youth, and these folks are experts.
The spacious deck out back, soundtracked by AM radio hits, makes an early evening more golden with its casual, breezy ambience. Good days get better. Hard days unwind. The space itself — divided according to private dwelling standards — feels, well ... nice and lived-in. Just don't try finding the bathroom.
Appetizers leave something to be desired. The crusty promise of the unfortunately dubbed Crab Balls, though accompanied by a nice remoulade, soon gives way to an overspiced amalgam of uncooked batter. Not too spicy: over spiced. This place must go through cans and cans of Tony Chachere's. The fried pickles, however, are not to miss. Served with a chipotle ranch sauce that's hard to ignore (we cleaned the ramekin), they're crisp spears that are big.
The best aspect of an evening whiled away under the canopy of trees has to be the drinks. Lou Lou's, owned by the same folks who run the town's best happy hour at Theo's, steals a few of their tricks. The Son of a Beach, a bubbly combo of Sprite and passion fruit vodka, is the perfect summer drink. The Dark and Stormy mixes ginger beer with dark rum for a fizzy bite. Don't stay too long if you want to make it home.
Entrees are key. Any fish shack in Fayetteville inevitably has to hold up to our staple family joint, the Catfish Hole. The family-style eatery on Wedington, though long on quality, has a tendency to feel like something of a mill, so busy that they're all business. Lou Lou's is different enough to get by on personality and a certain funky quality. The well-browned and boneless chunks of catfish are big and spongy, guaranteeing leftovers, which is nice, because they're even better cold the next morning. For fans of non-fried fare, there are the amazing snapper tacos, drizzled with chipotle sauce and delicious. Three corn tortillas come overstuffed and colorful.
The food's served with the usual array of sides. Exceedingly plain, small and hard hush puppies are a glaring disappointment, but not the light, peppery slaw. The red beans and rice are a meal themselves, with large, meaty beans.
While on our way out, stuffed and smiling and maybe a little flushed, we noticed that one truck in the parking lot was pulling a boat trailer. If the fish aren't biting, we can't imagine a better place to dock after a day on the water.
708 N. College Ave.Fayetteville
Drop in around noon for the ever-changing specials. The chefs use lunchtime to experiment with a variety of wraps and sandwiches made with whatever exotic fish their whims dictate. And don't miss the weekly crawfish boil, every Thursday starting at 4 p.m. Mudbugs don't usually make it this far north.
Open daily 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
All credit cards accepted. Full bar.