Chicago, Illinois – Lula Cafe

Restaurant: Lula Cafe
Cuisine: American/Breakfast/Brunch/International/Organic
Last visited: June 14, 2012
Location: Chicago, IL (Logan Square)
Address: 2537 N Kedzie Blvd
Transit: Logan Square
Where I stayed: Hyatt Regency Chicago (Taxi recommended)
Price Range: $20-30 mains for dinner or $10-20 breakfast/brunch

1Poor 2OK 3Good 4Very good 5Excellent 6FMF Must Try!

Food: n/a (didn’t try enough)
Service: 3
Ambiance: 3
Overall: n/a
Additional comments:

  • Restaurant & Cafe
  • Very popular for brunch
  • Seasonal/daily menus
  • Local/Sustainable ingredients
  • Local favourite
  • Neighbourhood gem
  • Casual
  • Vegetarian tasting course
  • Vegetarian friendly
  • Vegan friendly
  • Wine/Cocktails/beer
  • Patio seating
  • Wed-Mon 9am-12am
  • Fri-Sat – bar open later
  • Closed Tuesdays

**Recommendations: I didn’t try enough, but I think coming for breakfast/brunch is a better bet.

Photo from Nick Kindelsperger at chicago.grubstreet.com

The space is split up in two restaurants, but it’s all operated under Lula Cafe. The original space is on the right where the sign hangs and it’s a local favourite and one of the city’s beloved breakfast and brunch spots. It wasn’t until summer 2010 when they expanded Lula Cafe by purchasing the store next door and turning it into their “sister restaurant”. I would have actually liked it better if they treated it as an actual sister restaurant though. As a restaurant it literally didn’t have an identity (no name) and it was just the other space that was nicer and randomly attached to the cafe. The decor, menu and food are different on both sides, but I think my expectations would have been better met on the cafe side.

I ended up dining on the restaurant side which aims to be a bit more upscale and appropriate for dinner. However if I was to do it all over I would just go to Lula Cafe for their famous brunch menu or affordable cafe dinner menu. Both sides are obviously neighbourhood favourites and it attracts a hipster/artsy crowd, but remains very casual and “granola”… and dog friendly.

I was debating between dinner at Lula Cafe or Longman & Eagle, both located in Logan Square, and without a coin toss Longman & Eagle won. They both focus on “farm to table”, but Lula Cafe does it in a more “hippy” way with a stronger emphasis on vegetarian and vegan options. Longman & Eagle is for the more adventurous and carnivorous appetite, as to why I chose it, but I still appreciate and love vegetables… I just don’t require a 6 course Vegetarian Tasting Menu which is an option here.

I was waiting for a seat at Longman & Eagle and instead of waiting in their outdoor beer patio I decided to walk a few blocks over to check out Lula Cafe. It was a suggestion from my server at Sepia, but judging from her character she was more Lula Cafe and I was more Longman & Eagle. I wouldn’t even say they’re competing restaurants and they’re both catered for different clientèle with different cooking styles, but I didn’t regret my final dining decision. Perhaps it was because I’m from Vancouver, BC and restaurants like Lula Cafe are very common.

I only tired one dish here, so I can’t speak for the whole menu, but I felt it was aiming for higher than what the ambiance offered. The food was locally sourced, organic and interesting, but the value wasn’t great. It just delivered stronger in the menu description and I was more convinced of it as an affordable and funky breakfast/brunch cafe than I was a fancier restaurant. It is called Lula “Cafe”, so maybe I just need to try their original cafe side and it’s something I would consider for Follow Me Foodie to Chicago round 2!

On the table:

The have a decent bar and cocktail list on the restaurant side, but I wouldn’t say it’s an actual “bar program” or special aspect here. They offer wine pairings and beers, but if you’re a whiskey enthusiast then you should check out Longman & Eagle.

Steelhead Trout - 3/6 (Good)

  • Young garlic heads braised in sake leeks, porcini, chamomile, sea beans, black walnut vinaigrette $26
  • It sounded great and it came recommended, but it ended up sounding better on the menu.
  • Being from Vancouver, BC it’s hard to “wow” me with a Steelhead Trout or salmon since it’s kind of what the West Coast and especially Vancouver is known for.
  • The fish came without the skin which is my favourite part when it’s seared nice and crispy, but perhaps it wouldn’t work with this clientele.
  • The Steelhead Trout was moist with a semi-crispy sear and seasoned with salt, but it’s still not the flavour of the skin.
  • The side of root veggies and earthy flavours of porcini and chamomile was all very “farm to table”, but I didn’t see continuity with the trout.
  • The young garlic heads tasted like candied and caramelized parsnips. Those were the best things on the plate!
  • The mushrooms were sautéed in a caramelized soy sauce and the side actually made the salmon itself seem a bit boring.
  • The black walnut vinaigrette was the dressing for the veggies and it was tangy and sweet with a couple walnut pieces.
  • The side was just a couple of each listed ingredient and it didn’t feel substantial enough as a side.
  • The chamomile was deep fried until crispy and they were seasoned with salt, but it was a bit like eating crispy hay and it had a bitter after taste.
  • I wish it was the chamomile flowers that were used and the flavours more infused in the dish because it came across as a garnish.
  • I loved the ingredients, but it didn’t reach its potential and it didn’t feel like a full plate.
  • It didn’t taste bad, but it just felt a bit pricey for what it was and I think I just had higher expectations.
I only tried one thing because it was the “appy” before heading back to Longman & Eagle for dinner.

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Lula Cafe on Urbanspoon

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