The shtick: The O.G. neighborhood brunchery with a menu of unclassifiable and unexpected food.
The vibe: Lovely Lula—which turned Sweet 16 earlier this week—has enjoyed such success that it recently expanded into a three-storefront affair. Though there’s seating aplenty (a front room with a bar and a sprinkling of tables; the main dining room; and a big outdoor patio), there is a 100 percent chance that if you swing by on a weekend morning, the scene will be rockin’. The two indoor areas feel a bit disjointed, but it’s nice to be able to belly up to the bar when faced with a 90-minute wait.
We rolled in on a Friday to discover a full patio and a half-full dining room. The outdoor tables are tightly packed, but thankfully it’s an easygoing crowd. Our table neighbors ranged from heavily tatted dog parents to a mom and her cheery toddler. 8 out of 10
The food: Cornbread French toast ($12) sounded absolutely appetizer-worthy. (Remember there are no rules at brunch.) Two tender squares of cornbread arrived perfectly crisped on the outside and accompanied by in-season berries, coconut-scented streusel, and a bit of sweet corn anglaise. Between forkfuls, we marveled at how cornbread in French toast form somehow managed to be light. And at no point did we long for maple syrup.
Take the unlikely combo of fried eggplant chunks, sweet corn kernels, basil, tangy peaches, a sliced hard-boiled egg, flakes of ricotta salata, and pine nut vinaigrette, and you have the bulgur bowl ($12)—an exemplary display of Lula’s magic. This innovation and dedication to ingredients makes brunch here a vegetarian’s dream. (We ordered ours with a side of bacon, but whatever.) 10 out of 10
The drinks: You can booze it up with Lula’s fine take on a Bloody Mary (there is chili paste and lemongrass involved), which we’ve done and enjoyed. This was an iced coffee kind of morning, however, and the glassful of strong Metric joe—a special blend made for Lula—was delightful. 9 out of 10
The service: Since we can’t whine about the now-commonplace policy of not seating incomplete parties and we didn’t really care that our drinks took a smidge too long to arrive, we can’t actually find anything to complain about. The host, servers, and runners worked together seamlessly. 9 out of 10
Overall: It may be the granddaddy of the Logan Square restaurant scene, but Lula’s menu and energy are a far cry from geriatric. Clearly we’re not turning anyone on to a new favorite or an under-the-radar gem here; rather, we’re giving this classic its due as the exemplary Chicago brunch. 9 out of 10