Ladies Who Brunch


Review: Lula Cafe by Kyle and Benjamin
February 5, 2009, 3:37 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

The pressing question with any review of Logan Square’s Lula Cafe is, is it worth the long, long, long wait for a table, or is it too hyped for its own good.  Having been ultimately rewarded with an incredible meal after a few long stints in the cramped bar area on a couple of dinner outings, we were eager to see if Lula could deliver the same experience for Sunday Brunch.

If only they had passed around these delicious, berry covered sweet rolls while we waited.

If only they had passed around these delicious, berry covered sweet rolls while we waited.

Arriving around noon, probably the peak of the breakfast rush, we were quoted a 45 minute wait time for a party of three.  After checking out the only nearby store that seemed to be open, we pushed our way into a space against the wall and began to watch the names get ticked off the list ahead of us.  Twice during our half hour stay a host came by with a tray of wonderfully moist biscotti topped with a bit of blackberry jam.  Nice touch, and it did a bit to stave off our hunger.

Once you finally snag a table at Lula, it’s straight to the punch.  I barely had time to be reminded of how much I love their dining room (especially the abstract mosaic above the kitchen window) before we were greeted by a friendly, if hasty, waitress.  I have to say, one thing I love about Lula is that even though the food is haute, the service is just hot, dressed in their coolest relaxing Sunday duds.  As a waiter at a black on black, bistro aprons restaurant, I was jealous of the freedom granted to the service here–and more than aware that my own wardrobe would probably never pass the hipster test on this floor.

Lula can be forgiven for rushing you through the dining process a bit–there’s a line out the door, after all, and it’s not like we weren’t all starving after the wait anyway.  We ordered a rainbow trout benedict, chicken pozole,  and beet bruschetta as an appetizer to share.

"It's not beef bruschetta, just so you know."  Oh well, we'll have it anyway.

"It's not beef bruschetta, just so you know." Oh well, we'll have it anyway.

The bruschetta, a house favorite, was simple but lovely, well marinated, perfectly roasted thick slabs of beet with an equally generous slathering of goat cheese, some greens and light dressing.  It’s listed on the menu as an entree, and I imagine it would make a stellar lunch for someone with a smallish appetite.  It seems like it wouldn’t be all too hard to replicate at home, but my attempts at cooking beets have had mixed results, at best, so I suppose I’ll leave it to the pros.

Our main dishes followed very quickly after this first plate was cleared; I’m always impressed by a kitchen with great timing.  The trout benedict was one of nicest creative variations on the classic benedict we’ve encountered; a pine nut relish took the dish from just another blah protein switch up to a well composed, craveable plate.

Mostly I'm just a sucker for little square bowls.

Mostly I'm just a sucker for little square bowls.

My only complaint about the pozole was that there wasn’t enough of it.  I hardly ever run into this soothing stew of chile and hominy in Chicago, although it formed a staple of my (and everyone else’s) diet growing up in New Mexico.  Lula’s version features a lighter broth than the traditional pork heavy one, and substitutes a tangy tomatillo salsa base for the usual roasted or dried peppers.  I loved the way the dish was composed, with fluffy eggs, a vinegary cabbage slaw, and shredded dark meat chicken all neatly separated into their own quarters, allowing you to customize your stew.  I detected a bit of Lula’s Asian influence here–the separation of ingredients reminded me a lot of an authentic pho or ramen presentation.  And kudos to them for the great slaw–cabbage is a pretty common add in for pozole, and this vinegary preparation added just the right amount of acid and crunch to the dish.

lula3

Lula probably earned the biggest ups for their hot sauce.   I often resort to mixing hot sauce with ketchup to get the right sweet spicy flavor, but this syrupy bit of heaven had all the flavor I needed and we sprayed it on everything.  It came in a non descript squeeze bottle, leading us to believe that it was house made, but our server was happy to share that it is actually a variation of sriracha, which comes in a bottle with a shark on it rather than the commonplace rooster.  She told us it can be found at many Asian groceries, and I can’t wait to pick some up.

Overall, our tasty meal more than made up for the wait–for a special occassion kind of brunch.  But I was perplexed by a pair of young ladies at the table next to us.  Why would you wait an hour just to ordered scrambled eggs and bacon or plain french toast?  Lula’s brunch menu has the same beautiful balance of daring and comfort that makes its dinners so memorable, but if you just need some sausage links to recharge after a hangover, there are plenty of greasy spoons nearby.

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