Cafe LuLu – Bring a Little Funky to Your Brunch

The summer guest reviews keep coming in! Today's post it is from Lori Fredrich. Lo is best known for her work over at Burp! Where Food Happens. When she's not blogging, she spends her free time hanging out with her awesome husband Peef, flipping through cookbooks, tending her urban garden, and making whimsical birthday cakes for her nieces and nephews. She also wastes a ton of time on twitter as @Burp_Blog.

It’s difficult to believe that Cafe LuLu used to be the former home of a George Webb’s restaurant.  The walls sport rotating art from local artists. The bar is built from recycled wooden doors, and the décor marries 1950’s supper club-style chairs with a junk-sale floor and swag lamps, providing a cozy ambiance for casual dining. Although the atmosphere is still vaguely reminiscent of a classic “blue collar” diner, LuLu really shines in capturing the funky chic vibe that characterizes Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood.

Located just south of downtown, at the intersections of Kinnickinnic, Lincoln, and Howell Avenues, this eclectic café and bar serves up creative variations on the usual brunch theme, including a selection of sandwiches, pancakes, French toast, and a selection of scrambled egg dishes.

We hopped on over to Cafe LuLu with friends last Sunday. It had been a hectic weekend, and we were really looking forward to some good old fashioned down time, a great bloody mary, and some delicious eats.

Our friends Al and Karrie arrived first, and they were seated immediately at one of the high top tables toward the front of the restaurant.  By the time Peef and I arrived, they’d both ordered and received their drinks – a bloody mary ($5) for Al, and a cup of coffee ($1.50) for Karrie. Peef also ordered a bloody mary and coffee, and I opted for a mimosa ($5) with my coffee.

The “bloodies” were thin but flavorful with plenty of Worcestershire, a prominent pickle flavor, and a hint of spice. They came garnished with a full skewer of veg, featuring two pickles, an olive, and a cherry tomato as well as a beer chaser. Although a mimosa isn’t usually my drink of choice, I quite enjoyed LuLu’s version of this classic cocktail. It had plenty of bright orange flavor and a pleasant sweetness. The drink also had plenty of sweet, juicy orange pulp – which might be a turn-off for those who don’t enjoy a bit of texture in their drinks.

We got a little distracted and spent too much time chatting over our drinks, so when our waitress, Betsy, came around to take orders, we weren’t exactly ready.   However, she was kind enough to overlook our indecisiveness and she patiently came back three times over the course of the next 20 minutes to check-in with us an make sure we weren’t feeling neglected.

Karrie, a vegetarian who prefers to avoid eggs, initially found herself a bit disappointed by the LuLu menu, which didn’t feature many vegetarian options. The fact that the menu also explicitly stated “no substitutions” meant that she had to avoid most of their brunch specials. After much deliberation, she decided upon the roasted vegetable pita ($7.25), which featured fresh seasonal vegetables (carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, red peppers, mushrooms, and onions) on a soft Greek style pita with cucumber sauce. When given the infamous choice between house-made chips or Asian slaw, Karrie opted for a full side of the slaw, which really delivered on flavor. Crisp cabbage, carrots, Chinese noodles, and peanuts were combined in a deliciously balanced toasted sesame dressing.  The vegetables in the pita were perfectly cooked – crisp tender and well seasoned.  Karrie commented that the sandwich was particularly deicious thanks to the “awesome” cucumber sauce.

Peef ordered the brunch burrito special ($8.00) – a flour tortilla stuffed to the brim with chorizo, black beans, onions, eggs and roasted poblano peppers. The burrito was served with a side of zesty salsa and sour cream, chive hashbrowns, and garnish of melon and orange.   Although the salsa was thin, it made a great sauce for topping the burrito, and the sour cream helped to balance out some of the heat.  Peef mentioned that, although his hashbrowns were good, he thought they could have used a bit more salt.

Al opted for the garden scramble ($7.00) – three eggs scrambled with roasted seasonal vegetables and topped with fresh goat cheese.  The scramble was served with crisp buttered toast and a side of chive hashbrowns.  The goat cheese was fresh and delicious, with a pleasant tang that paired nicely with the roasted vegetables.  Al would have liked the dish to have a bit more flavor overall, and probably a few more vegetables, but he enjoyed the dish and eagerly finished the entire plate full.

I ordered the LuLu Benedict ($8.50) – two poached eggs nestled into a bed of capicolla ham atop an English muffin and covered with house-made hollandaise. The benedict was served alongside a generous portion of chive hash browns.   The eggs were perfectly poached, and they were stellar combined with the slightly peppery capicolla and LuLu’s delicious hollandaise, which was spread generously over the top.  Unfortunately, the generous helping of hollandaise also covered my orange and melon slices… so, they lost a few points for presentation in my book.  In addition, although the chives in the hash browns were a nice touch, the potatoes themselves weren’t as crisp as I would have liked. Note to self – be sure to specify crispy hash browns next time.

Overall, we had a great time at Café LuLu.  Food was hot and fresh. Service was prompt and friendly. And it was the perfect place to relax after a long, stressful week.  We would caution those with food allergies or restrictions to be cautious about LuLu’s “no substitutions” policy, which can limit choices.  Nonetheless, at just under $14 a person, this was one lulu of a brunch.  And we’ll definitely be back again to sample more of their offerings. The bourbon almond French toast is definitely calling my name.

What have been your experiences at Cafe LuLu? What are some other good entrees? Respond below in the comments!

All the details you want to know: (on a five star rating)

Café LuLu
 ****(very good)
2261 and 2265 South Howell Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53207
(414) 294-LULU 
Cafe Lu Lu on Urbanspoon

Brunch hours:
Sunday: 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Atmosphere: **** (very good)

Eclectic café featuring unique local art, hip furnishings, and a friendly vibe.

Food: ***1/2 (pretty good)

Food generally under-seasoned. Not a great selection for vegans or vegetarians who prefer to avoid eggs.

Service: ****(very good)
Our server was pleasant and attentive, and the food came out to the tables in a timely fashion.

Drinks: ***1/2 (pretty good)

LuLu gets points for affordability.

Price: ***** (awesome)

Around $14 a person, drinks included.