Guys, I have a new restaurant to add to my favorites list. As I've mentioned many times before, every Thursday I have dinner with my BFF from college. Two weeks ago we headed to Allston to finally try Lone Star Taco Bar. It was that same night that we noticed a new spot on Cambridge Street, LuLu's.
I was skeptical about venturing in, as Allston has some pretty divey spots, but one of my fellow Boston food bloggers gave them high praise, causing me to reconsider.
Last Thursday I met my weekly dinner date outside LuLu's. It was a beautiful night and the windows to the restaurant were wide open.
A bouncer checks your ID on the sidewalk and as soon as you open the door your eyes land on this chalkboard. I love this shout out for LuLu's chef.
Beyond the front door is a long bar, wrapped in a row of modern chrome chairs. We were at the restaurant for close to three hours and the bar was packed the entire night.
The dining room area has a line of tables in the front windows, but it also has some cozy corner booths. I really like the LuLu's signs over this particular table. They remind me of old school soda bottle labels.
The most notable feature in the dining room is a psychedelic sign with the restaurant's name. According to their Facebook page, this is a "computer programmed, specialty made, LED sign" by artist Aaron Geman, who flew in from San Francisco to install it.
The sign changes colors throughout the evening, casting a rainbow of hues over the room.
Once seated at our two top, we could take a look at the menu, which was already set up as a placemat.
Let me just say, I am a huge fan of any place that allows you to substitute in mac & cheese, chili or beer cheese soup in place of any of the regularly scheduled programming.
Before deciding on food, we turned our attention to the drink menu. Many of you already know this about me, but I am a sucker for cute or clever branding and packaging. So when I saw that LuLu's has a section of their drink menu called "Beertails," I knew immediately I was having one.
A beertail is, just as you would expect, a combination of a beer and a cocktail. For our first round, my BFF picked the drink called The King and I went for the one called Gypsy Angel.
The King was lager, muddled ginger, domaine de canton ginger liqueur and fresh lemon and lime on the rocks.
We were both instantly obsessed with the custom pint glasses. They are simple, yet they have a fun retro feel. After a few sips she commented, "This drink is really well balanced. I was afraid it might be too much ginger, but it's not over done at all."
I knew which drink was mine before our waitress even put them down on the table because it was neon. The Gypsy Angel is raspberry vodka, blue curacao, pineapple juice and Hoegarrden Belgian White on the rocks.
I couldn't get over the ombre neon colors! This drink tasted like liquid Jolly Ranchers. You know me, my favorite drinks either taste like candy or juice.
With beertails in hand, we were anxious to try some of the items on the snack portion of the menu. We began with the French onion deviled eggs. Did I have you at the name of the dish?
The egg yolks are mixed with French onion dip and then topped with French fried onions.
After the first bite I asked across the table, "Why don't I put onion mix in everything?" Seriously. I never want to have another deviled egg that isn't prepared this way.
Also, the French fried onions add a crunch much like they would to a traditional Thanksgiving green bean casserole.
Beyond the flavor, which was perfection, I also admired the clever presentation of this dish. The card board egg carton provides support for the eggs, while the arugula underneath makes them feel fresh off the farm. A treat for your eyes and your taste buds.
Next we dove into the pineapple guacamole with smoked salt tortilla chips.
The pineapple taste was very subtle. The bigger star of the dish was the chips, which tasted like Chinese wontons.
Our third starter (yup, judge if you must) was the Mexican Cheetos. Each piece has the light, airy quality of popcorn, but when dunked in the salsa Tapatio, brought some wicked heat.
The Cheetos were fun to try just because they are such an unusual item, but on taste alone, I wouldn't waste your time on these.
For the entree round, my dinner date ordered the watermelon-mozzarella salad. Our waitress informed us that this dish was just added to the menu. It was mixed greens topped with mozzarella cheese, watermelon, mint and toasted pumpkin seeds, then finished with a lemon vinaigrette and a balsamic reduction.
Once her plate was totally clean, she shared, "The lemon dressing was super fresh and delicious. I wish their had been more mozzarella and watermelon - the goodies! The mint was a very nice touch, but the pumpkin seeds were unnecessary. It was definitely yummy enough to order again."
LuLu's had a surprising amount of great vegetarian choices. Perhaps its vegan neighbors Root and FoMu have rubbed off?
I went with the portobello sandwich. The marinated mushrooms were served with pickled shallots and lemony arugula on a toasted ciabatta bun.
I have to say, this sandwich had way too much bread! The ratio of bread to sandwich stuffing was wildly off. I wound up eating the sandwich without the top piece of the bun, because I really wanted to be able to taste it, not just taste the bread.
The sandwich came with a side of French fries which were fantastic. They reminded me of the fries at Publick House in Brookline - golden, crispy and lightly salted.
Once our dinner plates were cleared, it was time for another round of drinks. I revisited the beertails menu and ordered up the Adult Juice Box. My bestie went with something off the traditional cocktail menu, the White Cosmo.
In the blue light of the LuLu's sign, her drink looked extra enticing. She described it as, "Refreshing with just the right amount of citrus."
My second beertail, the Adult Juice Box, was citrus vodka, limoncello, mango juice and Angry Orchard cider. I know. Amazing.
The drink tasted like the world's best apple juice. I want to make this at home.
You would think after two rounds of drinks, three appetizers and two huge entrees that we would be ready to call it quits. Well, you'd be wrong.
We took a look at the dessert menu and there wasn't a single chocolate item on there, so I was ready to pass, however, our waitress helped my dinner date persuade me into two sweet treats.
First we sampled the donut holes. There are about six donut holes that come in a charming silver pail and they are accompanied by a dish of warm chocolate dipping sauce. The donut holes tasted just like churros.
In the light of the disco LuLu's sign, the powdered sugar looked especially mesmerizing.
We also requested the warm caramel apple monkey bread. Now, you know I don't like fruit dessert. Actually, I hate fruit dessert. Right before we placed the order I said across the table, "We can get that one, but you're eating it yourself."
Well, after she took the first bite and her eyes rolled into the back of her head, I decided to give it a try.
I hereby lift the ban on fruit desserts in honor of the LuLu's monkey bread! Holy mother, was that delicious. It tastes like a cross between a breakfast bread and a cinnamon bun and it swims on a sea of cream cheese sauce. I mean . . . yeah.
As I mentioned at the top, I had my reservations about trying a new place in this neighborhood. Allston can be super divey or unbearably hipster, but LuLu's hits the nail on the head.
We didn't have to wait for a table, the restaurant has a great vibe, there's a fun bar scene, they play awesome music (we heard MGMT, Mumford & Sons and Eric Hutchinson), our waitress was fabulous, the food is unique and inventive and the drink menu is equally on point.
While it's common in fine dining restaurants to have an outstanding menu and an outstanding drink program, it's a rarity in more casual spots. LuLu's is a true gem.
Visit LuLu's at 421 Cambridge Street, Allston, MA 02134.