Shrimp Louie, a goopy seafood salad dressed with a pinkly sweet mixture of mayonnaise and sugary bottled chile sauce, was the height of chic before World War I, a big-city dish served in every restaurant of distinction between Seattle and San Diego. James Beard used to insist that shrimp Louie originated in his hometown of Portland; food historians suspect it first appeared in San Francisco. When I was a kid, I used to crave the Louie at the S.S. Princess Louise, a restaurant fitted into an old passenger ship docked in San Pedro, although it was still served then at about half the serious restaurants in town. Though it still appears now and then at old-fashioned coffee shops, the dish is basically as extinct as mock chicken or finnan haddie. There is still shrimp Louie, a pretty good one, preserved alongside jellied consommé, avocado cocktail and other curiosities of the '20s California kitchen, on the menu of the Musso & Frank Grill. But the expensive Louie at the Grill on the Alley is actually delicious, made with first-class prawns and dosed with a resolute jolt of chile, an old-fashioned salad retrofitted for a new century. If you come at the right time of year, you can have your Louie made with freshly picked Dungeness crabmeat instead.
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