// Written by Joy Cho //
Sometimes, you have extremely high expectations for a restaurant and leave a little disappointed. The food may very well have been superb and the service courteous, but the experience just didn’t meet the standard you had crafted in your mind. Other times, however, your insanely high hopes are exceeded and you walk out a bit dazed, thinking, “Wow, did that actually happen?” My experience at Lula Café falls under the latter category.
Lula was a name that I had seen, heard about, and put on my restaurant list I made during Christmas break. Although it is open from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m., my friend and I decided on brunch, both because we figured there would be little wait time on a Friday and because the dinner prices are a bit steep for the average college student.
After trekking to Logan Square on a chilly morning, we arrived right in time for brunch. We got seats immediately in the light-filled, quieter partition of the restaurant. It was hard not to look around the tastefully artsy restaurant: rustic décor, classy metal barstools, and a charming vibe. I probably could have sat there for hours, and just felt cool doing it.
Ah, the menu. How does one solve the quintessential brunch dilemma, choosing between sweet and savory? I had been eyeing the bread pudding French toast as I periodically drooled over the online menu, but at the last minute, I changed my order in a rather flustered way (good thing our waiter, donned in hip flannel, was totally understanding). I decided to go out on a limb and order what the waiter recommended as his favorite dish, the rutabaga gratin ($13).
Mind you, I had no idea what rutabaga was until this point (apparently, it’s a kind of root). Once I took the first bite of the gratin, I realized what I had been missing until then. The dish arrived in a cute ceramic bowl, and consisted of shredded rutabaga baked in a creamy, cheesy sauce. The gratin was topped with two perfectly executed sunny-side up eggs, sprinkled with hazelnut granola, and finished with a substantial amount of braised maitake mushrooms.
All I can say is, wow. The flavors melded perfectly, as the combination of rich, nutty, cheesy, and sweet complemented each other in an unreal way. I was pleasantly surprised with the braised mushrooms, which had a slight brininess coupled with a touch of sweetness. The rutabaga was slightly crunchy but soft enough for a gratin, and the hazelnut granola provided a pleasing contrast of texture. The one thing I would change would be having one yolk instead of two, as the runny yolks heighten the richness and can quickly become overpowering, especially when added to the creamy rutabaga. Overall, though, the dish was a winner. It was the hearty and warming dish that I had been craving in the depths of the Chicago winter. I give Lula Café a definite thumbs-up. Friendly service, artsy ambiance, unique food, and reasonable brunch prices, all under one roof. I would go back, and this time, maybe try something sweet. In all honesty, I’m still drooling over that bread pudding French toast.
|Address||2537 North Kedzie Blvd. Chicago, IL 60647|
|Hours||Closed on Tuesdays|
|Price Range||Around $12 for brunch entrées|
|Other||Walk-in Brunch (No Reservations)|