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Nov 22, 2006 04:39 PM

Charlotte: Thoughts on Lulu

I added this to a long and previous post, but thought I would re-post. Anyone else want to share their thoughts on Lulu on Central Ave?

I would have to add Lulu to the thread - just ate dinner there recently. I had been twice before in the summer and eaten appetizers at the (almost nonexistent) bar, and finally made it back for dinner.

On one of my previous visits, I had the cheese plate, which I would highly recommend. They rotate the selection of cheeses each week, and when I tried it the focus was American-made cheeses - from mild to strong (maytag was the "strong selection). They serve it with crostini, fruit, and some out of this world honey.

Anyway, for dinner we had French onion soup and a mimosa salad to start, followed by chicken cooked in wine and a pan-seared grouper.

The French onion soup was quite good - a very flavorful broth and awesome swiss cheese. Nothing adventurous, but when you order French onion soup is that what you are looking for? The "mimosa" salad was a mixed green salad with fried brie, fruit, walnuts, and a champagne vinaigrette. Very tasty if a little overdressed.

The entrees were perfectly seasoned and hearty for colder months. The wild-caught grouper was not overcooked (as fish often is). Served with quinoa, it was an interesting preparation. The chicken dish - CCR - was chicken legs cooked in red wine with mushrooms and carrots and served with wide noodles.

We finished off the meal with an apple tart, which to our dismay was served cold, but we still ate every bite!

I also have to applaud their efforts to focus on local and sustainable food - even though the menu deviates from local and sustainable every once and a while. The menu is seasonal, so why offer salmon in the winter when it's farm-raised? Why put bland, flavorless strawberries on a salad when they don't add any value? But any focus on local and sustainable ingredients is a welcome change from most Charlotte restaurants, and Lulu is honest about the origin of the ingredients. Hopefully more Charlotte restaurants will follow their lead.

That departure from local/sustainable is one of my only complaints! The other is that the restaurant is very, very small - and also very loud - there is nothing to absorb all that noise. I'm not sure why they didn't add anything to the design for better acoustics.

Overall I would give it an A-/B+ -- a few little tweaks would push it over the edge for me. But if you want seasonable flavors and (mostly) local/sustainable food - give it a try!

Sorry for the long post.

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  1. I'm in from out of town and my local friend and I went to Lulu on her friend's recommendation. I am so happy we did (I apologize in advance if I state the obvious or am otherwise oblivious of prevailing local opinion about this restaurant; I elected not to check for too many previous posts because, frankly, I didn't want to risk jading my experience with too much research.)

    Part of my joy in this dinner is doubtless a result of my missing a certain kind of southern dining experience now that I live up north. I don't know how to encapsulate it - it has something to do with the fact that the rakish guy on the front porch who appeared to be just hanging out having a cigarette got the door for us, followed us in and turned out to be the host, complete with fancy French accent. It also had something to do with the sweet little house the restaurant was in, the high quality of the ingredients, and the super-corny names for the items on the menu (Duck Duck Jus, Slam-On (for Salmon), and Miso Horsey leap to mind). And, of course, the whole shebang would have cost at least half again as much where I come from, and would have likely involved some pretty annoying, unpleasant people, both back of house and at the next table.

    It was a Tuesday night, so it wasn't too crowded (though well-attended) or loud. Our service was both impeccable and friendly, and the food was delicious. We split an order of the fried green tomatoes; I had the Duck Duck Jus and my vegetarian dining companion had the Eggplant Cigars (in French on the menu; I won't even try). She raved about the texture of the eggplant - said it actually was strangely like meat as opposed to just being crisp-fried. She and I fought over the Sweet Potato Grits that came with my dinner (and the mystery spice? star anise!) and I inhaled the duck, with every bite including at least a couple of golden raisins.

    We split a Creme Brulee for dessert and she had a glass of the Canadian Icewine on our server's recommendation. Both were tasty and I asked for a glass of the icewine as well. Turned out they'd sold the last one to my friend; the server opened a bottle of Italian dessert wine that they don't offer by the glass for me and said I could just have a glass if I wanted. I liked the wine (and thought the offer was gracious) so we committed to the half-liter bottle.

    Overall, it was the kind of pleasant, slightly fancy but not intimidating or exclusive dining experience that I've been southsick for. God only knows when I'll find myself in Charlotte again but if I do I'll go back to Lulu for sure.


    2 Replies
    1. re: killerinsideme

      My fiance and I had dinner at Lulu last night and had a great experience. We had a nearly 4 hour layover at the airport yesterday and didn't want to hang out at the very crowded airport for that amount of time. Thanks to some research I had done on Chowhound, I decided to give it a try. It was about a 15 minute and $20 cab ride each way, but it was well worth it and I'd recommend doing to same to anybody else who appreciates good, reasonably priced fresh food, a cozy atmosphere, and excellent service. Because we didn't have a lot of time, we only split a fig walnut stack of fried green tomatoes, mozzarella, prosciutto, and tapenade with a bit of honey, and each had an entree. I don't think stack needed the sweetness from the honey, but it was very good.

      For our entrees, my fiance had the duck vitto with orange glaze, roasted root vegetables, and chestnut barley risotto. The aroma was incredible, the flavor was just as good, and the portion size was huge. This was one of the best duck dishes I have ever had. I was very, very impressed and wish that I could get a dish prepared this well in my hometown restaurants. I had the shrimp and grits, was was also very good. I'm certainly not an afficianado of the southern staple, but I enjoyed it. We also had a very reasonably priced bottle of Zinfandel. Unfortunately we didn't have time for dessert because our cab picked us up a little bit early. Had it not been for that, then we wouldn't have felt rushed for time at all.

      Another thing I'd like to note is that the chef and owner, Marc, came out to our table to see how we were doing. He wasn't cooking last night, but we really enjoyed the fact that he checked on us. He said the area where the restaurant is located is kind of an up and coming type of area, and that he's slowly working on changing up his menu by meeting with all of his local suppliers. If I'm ever back in Charlotte I'll definitely make it a priority to get back to Lulu.

      1. re: tdmccarthy21

        I LOVE that u left the airport, took a cab & had dinner in the coolest part of Charlotte (which is quite a haul from the airport)! That is SO Chowhound. You go! Man, you picked a great place too.

        You're my hero. ;-)

    2. Does ANYONE know what kind of honey they use on their cheese platters. It IS truly out of this world! I would love to find it to buy. :)

      3 Replies
        1. re: GodfatherofLunch

          Really? I don't think I've ever heard of saffron-honey. WHere would you buy such a thing? Wonder if DeanDel would have this?

          1. re: mmuch

            I THINK this is what they use. A call to LULU would clear this up.
            Here is a link if you wish to purchase saffron honey online

      1. Just got back from lunch at Lulu. This is the first time I've eaten there and wonder why, why, why? It was just lunch (I know the dinner menu is more complex) but it was so nice, tasty, and we had great service to boot.

        I had the BLT -- a huge sandwich stuffed with bacon, lettuce and fried green tomatoes. It was served with a giant pile of frites. The sandwich was rich but oh-so-bad-for-you-delicious. The frites were awesome: crispy and well seasoned.

        I can't wait to go back for dinner.

        BTW, several people nearby ordered the burger and it really looked awesome. Has anyone tried it?

        12 Replies
        1. re: HungryGrayCat

          If it looked like a big orange-y mess, that was the spectacular LuLu burger. I know there's a lot of buzz about the new burger bars in town and lots of people swear by Lupie's and Penguin, but, my dear, this is the be-all end-all of the southern burger. It comes w/ homemade pimento cheese, a fried green tomato slice, sweet jalapeƱo relish, a sturdy piece of lettuce and a shudder of sheer glee. It will run down to your elbows in streams of juicy-lusty goodness. It will call out to you, hungover Sunday morning in bed. And I can attest that I my eyes well up with tears every time I take that first bite. I have been on a quest for the perfect burger and this is it.

          1. re: littlegirltree

            Wow! Nicely put, littlegirltree. Sounds similiar to the burger experience I had at The Spotted Pig in NYC. All I can say about that beautiful burger is HOT DAMN!

            I'm anxious to try Lulu's.

            1. re: lynnlato

              Oh yes! The Spotted Pig Burger comes in at a close second behind the LuLu burger! (Shake Shack's mushroom burger is in 3rd place).

              BTW, my little sister had the Spotted Pig's gnudi a few years ago and promptly decided that she needed to teach herself how to cook, buying a Batali cookbook. That place is life-changing!

              1. re: littlegirltree

                Wow... then I must have the lulu burger if you think The Spotted Pig's is 2nd to it... wow! It's nice to come across someone close that has experienced that beautiful burger @ TSP.

                Yes, the gnudi! I had those too. Beautiful... w/ the brown butter and sage. Was your sister able to re-create them to her satisfaction? I also had the chicken liver toasts. People rave about those, but I was not a fan. I can do goose liver, but calf and chix liver - not so much. ;-)

                1. re: lynnlato

                  Neither of us has been able to reproduce the gnudi, the ricotta in these parts is pretty sad, and TSP's is made w/ sheep's milk ricotta. My dh and I visit Dolce on Tuesdays for their gnocchi, which almost sates our occasional gnudi yeargnings.

                  1. re: littlegirltree

                    Pasta and provisions has some pretty great ricotta, very creamy and smooth, not griddy. But you have to ask them for it...not sure if it's on the shelves. just my opinion, i'm not the ricotta expert, but it's the best I've had.

                    1. re: mmuch

                      Yeah - I'd rather drive a nail through my skull than go to Pasta and Provisions. I get the same ick feeling in that place as I do at a Wal Mart.

                      1. re: littlegirltree

                        Very curious post LGT. I've only been in a handful of times but it seemed like an interesting place. What gives you the ick feeling? My daughter gets nauseous at Dean & DeLuca. It's funny because the smell of that place makes me homesick but it she finds it revolting. What's up with P&P? Is it the smell?

                        1. re: southernitalian

                          I like Pasta and Provisions a lot. They sell TriBeCa Bakery baguettes, which are the best in town by far. I also like to buy their olive oils. They have a California oil from arbequina olives that is very tasty. Can't imagine what would cause one to feel ill.

                        2. re: littlegirltree

                          Wow, didn't mean to hit a nerve... guess you had a bad experience, huh?

                          1. re: mmuch

                            I hear Pasta and Provisions is coming out with a line of
                            Martha Steward Mortadella ( it's a good thing)

            2. re: HungryGrayCat

              They have a red neck burger with pimento cheese and fried green tomato. It is great, so is the steak sandwich and most everything else. They do ROCK - for weekend brunch,lunch, and dinner!!