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Valley Life | Restaurant Review

Tiny Eatery Satisfies With Its Huge and Tasty Servings

November 20, 1998|MAX JACOBSON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Homey Montrose is getting a mild face lift, or at least its food scene is.

The stretch of Honolulu Avenue just east of Ocean View now has the terrific Stone Hearth Bakery, which specializes in traditional breads and rustic pastries. And just two doors away, there's the eclectic Cafe Lulu, a true neighborhood haunt serving three squares in an intimate, relaxing setting.

I like to come here for a hearty breakfast, when the menu includes migas tortillas--eggs scrambled with tortilla strips, onion and cilantro--and great stuffed French toast. But the dinner menu is remarkably diverse for such a tiny restaurant.

This is not an ideal spot for claustrophobes, though in mild weather you do have the option of outdoor seating. Inside, you sit at a high counter on tall stools, or at small, round tables where two's a crowd. At dinner, you start off with a basket of hot, crusty, fragrant olive rolls. I'd call them addictively delicious. Pass on the appetizer called Lulu's bread, though: slices of country white bread topped with too much of a thick, cloying farmer's cheese.

The vampire dip gets its name from all the garlic it contains, but the melted cheese and artichoke hearts assert themselves nicely in the mix. It's especially good on crusty French bread. The wild mushroom quesadilla, also an appetizer, is big enough to share as an entree. It too is loaded with cheese and extremely satisfying.

The portions really do tend to be lulus. Southern fried chicken salad is a veritable mountain of romaine, roasted corn, pecans and so many fried chicken strips the Colonel himself would be impressed. The fried calamari comes in a virtual vat.

And for really outlandish appetites, there is the Big Lu. This belly-buster is 12 ounces of ground chuck mixed with avocado slices, red onions, American cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, four slices of bacon, Lulu's secret sauce and a mound of fries.

The kitchen offers a host of conventional entree choices too. Among them are a roasted chicken blanketed with an overpowering whole-grain mustard sauce, and a grainy meatloaf with real mashed potatoes and creamed spinach.

I'd come back for Cafe Lulu's homemade cookies and desserts, any time. There are great Linzer cookies made with plenty of butter and raspberry jam, and even individual double-crust apple pies.

BE THERE

Cafe Lulu, 2426 Honolulu Ave., Montrose. Open 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday, 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 7:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday. No alcohol. Street parking. American Express, MasterCard and Visa. Dinner for two, food only, $17-$28. Suggested dishes: vampire dip, $6.95; Southern fried chicken salad, $8.95; wild mushroom quesadilla, $6.95; the Big Lu, $8.50. (818) 248-0213.

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