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Comfort, Quality, and Coffee: A Conversation with Lula Cafe

“We want to be able to have really quality ingredients, but we also want to be accessible to the general crowd.”

Daniel Piquard, Bar Manager at Lula Cafe

Most of the time, the ideals of a comfortable local café and fine dining run like parallel lines, doomed to coexist yet never intersect.  It takes a place like Lula Café to remind us that those lines don’t exist at all. A warm experience that embraces mind-expanding, creative cuisine is what Lula is all about, and the fact that they’ve been doing this since 1999 only confirms the notion that they do it quite well. This week, we sat down with Daniel Piquard, Bar Manager, and Dennis Webber, Wine Director at Lula Café.

Emerging out of café culture, Lula has developed a seasoned reputation as being one of Chicago’s favorite brunch spots. Consequently, Lula has a close relationship with coffee.

“We want to continue the through-line to how much we care about our food, how much we take presentation and preparation in mind, and extend that through coffee. Have it not be an afterthought, but a part of the whole experience,” says Dennis. 

Since opening seventeen years ago, Lula has expanded from one Logan Square café storefront to three, plus outdoor seating. A sense of pride emanates from the thoughtfully plated food and well-crafted beverages to the décor. Coffee by Metric and locally sourced ingredients are set against a backdrop of local art as well as structural qualities hinting at the history of the building itself. Authenticity permeates every aspect of the Lula experience, and that is what leads to another truly special part of Lula: the staff. 

“To approach people and sound like a real human being, and genuinely welcome them into the restaurant, and to provide a warm experience for them is a major part of it as well. We can express our creativity and our professionalism through a filter of genuine warmth, customer service, and hospitality,” says Daniel.

Creativity in the kitchen and genuine warmth are twin pillars at Lula, and they are what brings people back over and over again. The café menu has been the same since opening, featuring comforting staples like the Lula ’99 Turkey Sandwich or Pasta YiaYia. Yet endless innovation runs through Lula on a weekly basis, from seasonal cocktails to the three-course Monday night farm dinners that feature freshly selected ingredients.

“I love when customers are really happy, really engaged, and really excited about the food we put out. Seeing people get really excited about trying something new,” says Dennis. “Finding that element of surprise that really enlivens people and excites their palate is really rewarding.” 

Lula has featured Metric Coffee for several years, and this year are partners along with Hopewell Brewing for the upcoming Good Beer Hunting event. The “Uppers & Downers” themed dinner series showcasing combinations of everyone’s favorites (beer, coffee, and food) takes places on Monday, May 22. Hopewell is playing host and providing the beer, Lula is taking their show on the road to cater out one of their famous farm dinners, and Metric is covering the coffee. When talking about what Lula is planning on cooking up, they are leaving plenty of room for inspiration and freshness, central themes to their Monday night farm dinners. One thing is certain, though. It’s shaping up to be a pretty amazing night.