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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Bay View Still in Love With LuLu

Popular café and bar covers all appetites

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The action started to pick up at the Bay View intersection of Kinnickinnic, Lincoln and Howell in 2001, with the opening of LuLu. Today, this vibrant area is filled with bars and restaurants. And more than a decade later, amid many changes to the neighborhood, LuLu remains a draw.

The original café has changed little over the years, still featuring blond wooden tables and a counter area with stools. In 2004, LuLu expanded into a neighboring building, adding more seating and a bar. With its big windows and high ceilings, this space offers a very different atmosphere that has proven popular with customers.

The menu keeps it simple, with appetizers, salads, burgers and sandwiches. The daily soup and other specials are listed on chalkboards. Two of the main attractions here are the homemade potato chips and Asian slaw. The chips come with an optional blue-cheese dipping sauce. The slaw consists of red and green cabbage with pasta, peanuts, a sprinkling of scallions and aromatic sesame oil. The best part is that all sandwiches include chips or slaw or a half-and-half combination of both.

Everything on the menu is reliable. Indeed, many of the items from the original menu still remain. There is something for all appetites, too, as options range from vegetarian dishes to very meaty choices. A vegetarian example is the Florentine melt ($9), toasted Vienna bread with mozzarella, slices of portabella mushroom and Roma tomato, and some garlicky sautéed spinach—a nicely balanced composition. This is countered with the "heart attack" burger ($10.95), a half-pound beef patty topped with Gorgonzola cheese and bacon.

The Trinidad chicken salad ($10.95) has leaf lettuce, cucumber, red onion and jicama tossed in citrus vinaigrette. The citrus rub for the meat is delicately spiced. For $1 more, you can exchange the chicken for a piece of ahi tuna that is even better suited for the spice rub. The Moroccan chicken sandwich ($9.45) uses the spices of North Africa, adding coriander, a bit of honey, lettuce, tomato and a boursin cheese spread to create favorable results.

A recent special was faux banh mi ($9.25), LuLu's take on the classic Vietnamese sandwich. It deserves to be a regular item on the menu. Faux banh mi is a baguette filled with thin slices of tender flank steak and slices of cucumber, cilantro, carrot and cabbage in sesame rice vinaigrette. And there is a generous dash of garlic chili sauce that packs a powerful punch.

Since sandwiches include the slaw or chips, there is no pressing need to order a starter. Still, you might want to consider a cup of soup ($2.75). One soup of the day was a nice vegetarian tomato bisque with a swirl of crema; another day it was a black bean soup with bits of andouille.

In the evening, the bar turns into an attraction of its own. There is a list of about 15 wines, even more beers, and an extensive selection of vodka.

LuLu's café and bar make it clear why this place was the spark that helped to revitalize this neighborhood of Bay View.

LuLu

2261 and 2265 S. Howell Ave.

(414) 294-5858

$-$$

Credit Cards: MC, VS

Handicap Accessible

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