We’re gaga for Lulu Café

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Photo courtesy Sarah HofmanAround the beginning of the semester, a friend and I decided we would start taking advantage of “Baby Pri.”

No, I do not mean we became sexual predators. We intended to use the Toyota Prius I brought to school this year to go out to dinner once a week. Weekly outings to different Milwaukee restaurants have a two-fold advantage: we get to know the city, and the regular use of my car prevents its baby battery from dying every other day.

I am proud to say we have followed through with our plan so far, and have discovered a few restaurants that are well worth a trip off campus.

When we first walked up to Lulu Café & Cocktails, 2261 and 2265 S. Howell Ave., we hesitated outside the front door and debated this week’s choice. My friend Andrea was not down with the snow globes displayed at the front counter. We needed to get a feel for the place.

The café is simplistic and funky, with minimal decoration ornamenting the bar and tables. At first, the yellow walls threatened to make me feel like I was trapped inside a gigantic egg (à la Broken Yolk), but I was relieved to find Lulu’s shade of yellow less aggressive and actually kind of comforting.

Luckily, we saw the specials listed on a chalkboard inside the window and decided to overlook the snow globes.

The specials listed for Nov. 2 to Nov. 8 include a dijon tuna sandwich for $9.50, a portobello swiss melt for $8 and an autumn duck salad for $12.75. Sandwiches are served with Lulu chips, Asian slaw or a bit of both.

I tried the Moroccan chicken sandwich with both Lulu chips and the Asian slaw for $8.25. According to Lulu’s menu, the chicken is marinated in a Moroccan blend of roasted sweet red peppers, fresh lemon juice, coriander and honey.

I was surprised by the quality of the food, considering the menu’s prices. My sandwich was no joke. I hate describing any sort of meat with adjectives, but there is no getting around it in this case. Unfortunately, the adjectives I must use are the ones that disgust me the most in almost every other context.

The chicken breast was thick, flavorful and moist. The sandwich was even topped with Boursin cheese spread, which means nothing to me, but tastes awesome.

Lulu’s chips are made fresh on the spot for customers. They are served with a blue cheese dipping sauce. For those intimidated by stinky cheeses, the sauce isn’t overly blue-cheesy and adds an interesting contrast to the chips.

I’m usually not much of a slaw girl, but apparently I’m an Asian slaw girl. According to the menu, Lulu’s slaw contains green and red cabbage, carrots, scallions, peanuts and ramen noodles in a sesame oil and rice wine vinegar dressing. The slaw is light and refreshing, which is a necessary addition to any meal packed with so many intense flavors.

One friend tried the Santa Fe cheddar melt and another had the Casablanca burger, which is made with beef, lamb, Middle Eastern herbs and comes with a side of feta yogurt sauce. The menu is packed with other intriguing options that are friendly to vegetarians and carnivores alike. Appetizers include a variety of ciabatta pizzas and entrees include unique salads, burgers, melts, pitas and sandwiches on baguettes and buns.

Lulu’s staff is friendly and attentive to customers, without being intrusive. And the music selection isn’t half bad either.

The bar offers imported and domestic beers and wines, local and national microbrews and specialty drinks. And cig smokers, you are not shunned from Lulu’s bar, but steer clear of the café.

Lulu Café & Cocktails opens at 11 a.m. daily. Brunch is served on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and weekend visitors can enjoy live music after 10 p.m.

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