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Squaring Off

Two restaurants - one local, one chain - set to open in Overton Square

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Bar Louie, a bar and restaurant chain begun in 1990 in Chicago, is slated to take on the dormant, southwestern corner of Madison and Cooper. Last occupied by the ominously named "Vortex" nightclub, the 5,600-square-foot space has been empty for years.

By January 2013, franchise operator Tony DeSalvo hopes to have the once bustling corner of Overton Square up and running again. DeSalvo, who owns Bar Louie franchises across the southeastern United States, says Memphis beat out Knoxville and Fayetteville for Bar Louie's newest location.

"Memphis is a nice in-the-middle location, plus it's a great city," DeSalvo says. "It was simply the best fit for the Bar Louie concept."

The Bar Louie concept is an upscale, casual bar and restaurant, where DeSalvo says almost all the food is made from scratch and the full menu is available from open to close.

In addition to the Luigi, Bar Louie's version of the Philly cheesesteak sandwich, the menu includes a number of American dishes but borrows heavily from other culinary traditions. You'll find an Asian seared tuna listed next to the Mediterranean salmon; Buffalo-style calamari (fried calamari tossed in Buffalo sauce) next to chicken nachos with house-made queso sauce; tempura shrimp next to truffle butter popcorn. DeSalvo also promises specials that call on Memphis' legendary love of barbecue.

Entrees will ring in around $10 to $12. Expect also quality drink specials. Bar Louie mixes all of its drinks from scratch, makes its cocktails with freshly squeezed lemon and lime and freshly muddled fruits.

In addition to spacious indoor dining, Bar Louie will have a 1,700-square-foot patio. Diners can enjoy either dining arrangement from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. every day except Sunday, when the bar and restaurant close at midnight.

Bar Louie, 2125 Madison barlouieamerica.com

Across the street from Bar Louie, Local Gastropub will open its second location on the same spot where Yosemite Sam's once stood.

Fans of Yosemite Sam's will hardly recognize the space, which Local owner Jeff Johnson has turned from dingy saloon to polished, two-story hangout. The feel of the new space is much like Local's downtown location, with exposed brick and some cool, refurbished touches. The menu will be more or less the same as well, although Johnson plans to put a stronger emphasis on dining at the Midtown location.

"We'll have some different menu items, some specials we won't have downtown," he says. "It will still be the eclectic American cuisine though. And we will definitely serve our signature burger."

In addition to this signature half-pound Donnell Farms beef burger, Johnson says a few other menu items will be staples for both locations: the lobster and crab enchiladas, the braised short-rib tacos, Local's award-winning hot wings, and the fish and chips. As for the cocktail menu, Johnson promises to maintain the same "aggressive" attention to interesting concoctions and cutting-edge mixology.

There will be a bar downstairs and a bar upstairs, as well as a two-story patio in the back — an instant plus for a patio-loving city like Memphis.

Johnson hopes to have the latest Local open by mid-September. It's slated to be open every day from 11 a.m. to 3 a.m., including a Sunday brunch.

Local Gastropub, 2126 Madison localgastropub.com

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