Chef Mailea Weger has announced an opening date for her highly anticipated concept, lou, an all-day café, brunch locale, and all-natural wine bar in East Nashville, Tennessee’s Riverside Village. lou draws inspiration from the fictional persona of a woman who is the daughter of a bohemian mother from Venice Beach and a well-read, charming Frenchman father, and merges a playful juxtaposition between healthy, contemporary Californian fare and Old-World European style. A vibrant and seasonal menu is complemented by an all-natural natural wine list, and Weger has tapped Chef Sasha Piligian, formerly of Sqirl in Los Angeles, to lead the restaurant’s pastry program.
Located in a renovated white 1930s craftsman house at 1304 McGavock Pike, lou will be open for brunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday starting Saturday, September 7.
Breaking Bread in Music City
The menu at lou is best described as abundant, bright, and visually stimulating. Through her experiences at West Coast restaurants, Weger mastered the art of California’s “healthy-ish” cuisine—one that spotlights vegetable-forward dishes with a balance of select proteins—and brings this to lou’s menu where dishes are driven by sustainable, local ingredients, and there is special attention to seasonality and emphasis on regional bounty. Utilizing a variety of acids and fresh herbs, Weger relies on fire to add char, ethnically diverse spices to broaden flavor profiles, and numerous preservation techniques, which allow flavors to deepen while adding tremendous health benefits.
During brunch, diners can enjoy a selection of assorted pastries, comforting sides, and dishes from menu sections market veg, organic eggs, sweets, and bread. Standouts include a Crispy Rice & Kale Salad (avocado, pickled cherries, wild mushroom togarashi, nori vinaigrette), Baked Egg Cazuela (chorizo, melted leeks, fermented chili yogurt, potato crust), Roasted Banana Buckwheat Pancakes (honey pepita butter, cinnamon maple, blistered raspberries), House Chorizo, Potato and Egg Sandwich (guajillo-cocoa chili paste, preserved lemon aioli cotija, lacto-fermented hot sauce), and sides such as Crispy Potatoes (cumin butter, pickled mustard seed) and thick-cut fennel or celeriac bacon. Wanting to serve up a sweet and indulgent morning treat, Weger is offering a seasonally rotating breakfast cake as well as breakfast wine—a discounted, daily, by-the-glass list derived from unfinished bottles from the night before.
The dinner menu includes dishes that fall into categories like market veg, pour la table, sea, land, and of course, desserts from Piligian. Burnt Kabocha (pickled cherry, curry, ricotta salata), White Beans (mole broth, sea salt), Chilled Salmon (blackberry molasses vinegar, fermented fresno chilies), Pork Belly with Chinese Five Spice Caramel, and Preserved Peaches & Thai Basil Tapioca Pudding are all available during dinner hours.
Fall in lou
lou’s beverage program features wellness elixirs, a low-ABV cocktail menu, and an all-natural wine list. In the morning, guests can order a turmeric, apple, ginger, and switchel elixir or a CBD, carrot, cinnamon, ginger tincture, in addition to a coffee program featuring Canyon Coffee out of Los Angeles. Cold coffee offerings include cold brew (lavender honey or ginger and lime) and iced Vietnamese coffee, while warm coffee drinkers can choose from drip coffee, café au lait, or chicory latte.
Spritzes, aperitifs, and digestifs will rotate through lou’s spirits and low-ABV cocktail menu, while the all-natural wine list offers an approachable variety of wines by the glass as well as bottles. A curated assortment of varietals includes white, contact, rosé, pet nat, sparking, and red. By-the-glass prices range from $12 to $15, while bottles range from $60 to $75.
Hip-chic With Old-World European Flair
lou’s aesthetic mixes iconic bistro and new age pastels, saturated color tones of creamy white, with pops of peachy nudes and sea blue turquoise. Evoking both the feminine and masculine, the colors read as clean, bright, and fresh. The interior offers an homage to the classic French bistro with small circular tables, vintage wallpaper, a wooden bar with brass detail, simple white serving-ware, cake stands filled with pastries, and the former home’s original brick fireplace.
Outside, one can find a communal table, meant for sharing the company of others over a glass (or more) of wine. A meyer lemon tree potted at the front door and the sunlit, enclosed patio made for year-round al fresco dining are details that transport guests directly westward to California. The 1446-square-foot interior space seats 35 guests in the main dining area, as well as 5 guests at the bar, and the 750-square-foot tented patio will allow for 24 additional seats and 12 communal seats useable all year round.
Born in Southern California, Weger spent her twenties within the fashion industry, fine-tuning her passion for aesthetic and cohesive brand alignment. During a six-month trip traveling throughout Europe in 2009, Weger received her first opportunity to work in a kitchen—the Old Museum of Architecture’s Café A in Paris, France. Inspired by her immersion into the industry, Mailea returned to California where she attended the Culinary Institute of San Diego and received her culinary background studying French techniques.
Upon graduation and completion of her externship at Herbsaint in New Orleans, Weger took her time cooking in various New York City kitchens before landing back in Los Angeles. There, she officially dove into her culinary career opening the Venice beach cult favorite Gjusta as Sous Chef before being promoted to its sister restaurant, Gjelina. In 2017, Weger was recruited to open Echo in Paris by her colleague Matthias Gloppe, the Parisian-Californian café and deli that garnered much acclaim from the New York Times, VOGUE, GQ, and more.