Pros: Friendly, intimate atmosphere. Lakefront location. Local flavor. Extensive, yet uncomplicated menu. Good service.
Cons: Ordinary appetizers and desserts. Just a bit expensive.
THIS RESTAURANT IS NOW CLOSED.
Popular with locals, visitors from surrounding communities as well as tourists, Lou's Billow Beach is a friendly, lively restaurant. During our visit, the service was very good and the food was great. Lou's is well worth the very short drive off I-90. If you like steak or seafood meals in a casual yet professional environment, then Lou's Billow Beach is for you.
THIS REVIEW IS FOR HISTORICAL AND ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY, AS LOU'S BILLOW BEACH CLOSED IN FEBRUARY OF 2007.
ASHTABULA STAR BEACON ARTICLE ABOUT THE CLOSURE: http://www.starbeacon.com/local/local_story_056071525
As with most families these days... my Ohio family has an active and crowded schedule. So when the occasion strikes that none of us have any extra activities, we often take the opportunity to jump into the minivan and spend a weekend away from home. One such weekend came in early April. Our destination... northeast Ohio... about 100-150 miles from our home in the east-central part of the state. We would visit Painesville and Fairport Harbor, swim at our hotel, visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and dine at Lou's Billow Beach.
Early-April Ohio weather is unpredictable and varied. Having lived here all my life, I should have been more aware of this. When we left home around noon on Saturday, we had sunny skies and temperatures in the 50s. When we reached Canton, we noticed some snow flurries. By the time we passed Akron, it was snowing steadily and starting to stick. When we reached I-90, we were in the midst of a sizable winter storm. By the time we reached our hotel in Painesville, the ground was covered with about 8 inches of snow... traffic had slowed to a crawl... and cars were sliding all over the place... NOT the pleasant spring day for which we had hoped. Our hotel had a huge wonderful indoor pool within a glass atrium which allowed us to swim in the heated pool or sit in the hot tub as we watched the late-season blizzard continue outside.
Lou's Billow Beach is located on the south end of Ashtabula, Ohio... a small town on Lake Erie in Ohio's extreme northeast corner. I had discovered this restaurant on the Internet (www.lousbillowbeach.com) and had already decided that would be our dinner destination. Problem was... it was another 30 miles from our hotel. Winter storm still underway, we poked up I-90 to Exit 223 (S R 45), and then another six miles north to the intersection of SR 45 and Lake Road West. The restaurant is about a tenth of a mile west of this intersection on the lake side of the road. The restaurant and its red / white striped sign are right next to the road and are easy to spot. Now completely dark outside... wind still blowing and snow still briskly falling... we pulled into Lou's spacious parking lot.
The attractive, yet ordinary-looking building blends in with the rest of the small-town neighborhood. My daughters (12 and 14) and I walked into the side entrance, which is actually the entrance to the adjacent BBs Bubble Bar. Despite the inclement weather, this small lively bar was packed with patrons. The crowded bar and its clientele had a decidedly rural look. The walls are covered with lots of memorabilia. My kids noticed a Marilyn Monroe autographed photo.
After squeezing our way through the crowded bar, we made our way to the much more spacious, and less crowded dining area. The dining area has tables of different sizes which I'm sure can be rearranged to accommodate small and large parties. The table arrangement offers some privacy without feeling isolated. The walls are tastefully decorated with art and photographs and memorabilia depicting this area's rich history. Before we were seated we noticed an older couple enjoying each other's company, a young couple whose body language suggested that they were falling for each other... and a party of ten who were at Lou's to celebrate a birthday. We were delighted to be seated right next to a large briskly-burning stone fireplace... offering a warm, cozy respite from the foul outdoor conditions.
Our friendly waitress, Kelly, explained that the wooden-handled red flag stuffed upside-down within a wine bottle should be turned upward to indicate that we were in need of service. My kids were eager to try out this system, so I turned up the red flag. We were promptly provided with lemonade refills. I was not very comfortable with the red-flag policy, so we used it just that once. Nevertheless, Kelly, and other staffers were quite attentive. All questions were cordially and satisfactorily answered. The service was always prompt and friendly.
The extensive and impressive American menu at Lou's Billow Beach focuses on traditional American dining sensibilities, but it also offers some more adventurous dishes. They have a butcher shop "out back", so their meat is always fresh every day. Lou's offers a wide variety of different steaks, some in two sizes. They offer porterhouse, t-bone, filet mignon, strip steak, filet mignon, prime rib and others at reasonable prices. Steak meals range from $24 for the 25-ounce porterhouse to $15.50 for the 5-ounce filet mignon. They have a chopped steak for $10.50. They have pork chops served in two different styles (traditional and "candied BBQ") as well as pork ribs (candied and traditional). Their seafood selections range from $13 to $17 and include, shrimp, scallops, langostinos (Chilean "tiny lobsters), catfish, salmon and scrod as well as various combinations. The twin 6-ounce lobster tails are $30. They have several different chicken selections... such as slow roasted, candy BBQ, honey mustard and buttered almond. Lou's pasta dishes include grilled chicken pasta alfredo, seafood pasta (scallops, shrimp or langastinos) and chicken parmigiana. My favorite entree name is "Controversial Spaghetti and Meatballs" ($10.50 for large and $8.50 for small). This dish is said to have nearly caused fistfights in the dining room. Why? Well, one can only surmise that the big plate of spaghetti with the two meatballs is so delicious, that those who order it risk the chance of fellow diners attempting to steal the hot, delicious pasta and meatballs with the threat of violence... "Hey pal, gimme your spaghetti and meatballs, or I'm gonna punch ya in the schnozz!" I had the thick 25-ounce porterhouse. It was cooked just as ordered... a perfect medium rare. The huge steak had just a bit of char on the outside, and lightly red in the middle. The bleu cheese butter sauce added a nice touch to my huge steak. I found the portion of bleu cheese butter to be much larger than necessary. It's unique and tasty. It is also very salty and rich and should be used sparingly. The kids both got the chicken parmigiana... chicken breasts served over spaghetti noodles topped with spaghetti sauce and cheese. All of the dinners are served with their freshly baked bread and butter. Most dinners include three sides instead of the usual two. Patrons have a wide selection of side items, including garden salad, cole slaw, sliced tomatoes, cottage cheese, chunky apple sauce, french fries, cajun fries, onion rings, cajun onion rings, hash browns, vegetable of the day, cup of soup, spaghetti, wild rice, mashed sweet potatoes and twice baked mashed potatoes. I received a generous portion of tasty, hot thick onion rings, a delicious twice-baked potato and a garden salad. Their homemade bleu cheese dressing is worth a mention. It's not creamy as one would expect from a salad dressing. Instead, it's whipped... with the texture of a light whipped butter and must be spread over the salad with a fork or knife.
They have about a dozen appetizer selections. Most are typical. Exceptions include sauerkraut balls, shrimp stuffed jalapeno poppers and a parmigiana crusted portabella mushroom. They also have potato skins, crab cakes, calamari, shrimp cocktail, a half-rack of ribs and a few others. Of the three appetizers we ordered... the chicken wings were well above average and I recommend them highly. They had the perfect balance of mild heat and light sweetness. The thick mozzarella sticks were very good, but ordinary. The sauerkraut balls really weren't that great. I had never eaten sauerkraut balls before, but I am a fellow Ohioan with German ancestry... and I have eaten much tastier sauerkraut dishes than this. All in all, the appetizers are OK, but unless you have a giant appetite, you could order one appetizer to share... or skip them altogether and enjoy each other's company until dinner arrives. Whatever your decision, I promise you won't leave hungry.
By the time we finished our dinner....... Actually... we couldn't finish our dinner due to our appetizers and generous portions. Nevertheless, we were presented with a dessert tray. As is always the case when a restaurant brings its dessert selection to its patrons, it was quite tempting. They had a wide variety of attractive pies, cakes and other mouth-watering desserts. Since we were stuffed at the time... we couldn't order dessert..
Ashtabula, Ohio is subject to the same "lake effect" snowstorms that plague Buffalo, New York. We drove through some unexpectedly severe , nasty, inhospitable weather to get to Lou's Billow Beach. After the drive, my expectation was to find a nearly-empty restaurant staffed with a handful of employees glancing at their watches and subliminally expressing their desire to be elsewhere. When we arrived at Lou's Billow Beach on that snowy April evening, we found just the opposite. The pub and restaurant were filled with laughter, friendliness and lively activity. The friendly bond between the staff and customers appeared to be heightened by the hostile, inclement weather. Although my part of Ohio doesn't get the lake effect snow... I'm sure fellow Northerners can relate to the camaraderie that can be facilitated by unexpected winter weather. The treatment we received on this lousy evening should be a good indicator that you can expect exemplary service on a more pleasant summer evening. Lou's Billow Beach is located right on Lake Erie, so you can go out back and enjoy the view. If you're traveling across I-90, here's an opportunity to get off the road... smell the roses... and have a nice meal on Ohio's North Shore.