Brian Hutmacher could have cut corners when he opened Toulouse Petit in November. As the owner of Mexican restaurant (and singles meat market) Peso’s, right next door, no one would’ve blamed him if he had taken the easy road and opened a New Orleans themed doppelganger aimed at the flirty, heavy-drinking party crowd.
Instead, it’s clear he’s aiming for “serious restaurant” with Toulouse, where he installed hand-cut-tile floors and glossy inlaid-wood tables. The walls are plastered in irregular, vaguely Tuscan layers that catch and hide the candlelight, and gorgeous floor-to-ceiling windows wrap the former Chinese takeout joint and burst open to the sidewalk in sunny weather.
Hutmacher hired executive chef Eric Donnelly, late of Oceanaire, who produces decent to delicious versions of as many as 60 dishes on the menu.
Particularly tasty: thick-cut, cornmeal-crusted fried green tomatoes, lightly sour beneath a sweet heap of Dungeness crab in a tarragon ravigote ($14); a satisfying gumbo ($13.50) with plenty of andouille and plump shrimp humming with a warm heat; and the barbecued shrimp and grits ($12.75), so cheesy and luscious I wondered how they fit any grits into the mix.
Three hugely popular happy hours (Monday-Friday 9-11 a.m. for breakfast; daily 4-5:30 p.m. and 10 p.m.-1 a.m.) keep the place packed through late at night, when the music gets cranked, the crowd sheds a layer of clothing, and the bartender earns his keep feverishly stirring smooth-drinking Sazeracs ($7.50).
Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Lower Queen Anne, 601 Queen Anne Ave. N 206.432.9069. $$ Wheelchair, full bar, late-night dining.