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Lula’s: More Than Just A Cafe

Observer Scene | Monday, February 2, 2009

Lula’s opened as an independently owned coffee shop in the spring of 1995, two years after the current owner, Steve Egan, graduated from Notre Dame. Since then, Lula’s has hosted Irish Music Mondays, Slam Poetry Tuesdays, acoustic sets from local musicians, and various readings through Notre Dame’s Creative Writing Program. As construction continues on the new Eddy Street Commons, Lula’s demonstrates a great example of existing Notre Dame/South Bend community relations. Egan describes Lula’s as “more than a restaurant – a cultural gathering place that promotes community and provides a creative outlet.” For almost fourteen years, Lula’s has provided a starting point for students looking to get off campus and into the community.Located on Edison Rd., in between the Backer and the Softball Field, Lula’s is the easiest and closest off-campus eatery for an on-campus student to visit. In warmer weather, the walk would take about an easy 30 minutes. Much of Lula’s appeal is its accessibility for those who need to study off campus. Providing free WiFi, users are only asked to cede key tables during busy lunch hours if necessary. The restaurant does fill up quickly, but outside of lunch students will find mostly peace and quiet, with easily obtained snacks and drinks. The atmosphere is hard to pin down, coming off as something between a stripped-down Starbucks and a hole-in-the-wall bar. Neither hipster nor corporate, it’s not uncommon to see a professor and student sitting next to an older couple as a group of undergrads argue over Trivial Pursuit (Lula’s has a cabinet full of board games sure to liven the most dud of dates). The tableware was presumably from 14 years’ worth of thrift stores and garage sales, but that’s not a result of lack of effort. As for the food, almost everyone who has been has a dish to recommend. A standard favorite is the hummus with warm fresh pita and blue corn chips. This homemade dish is a completely different taste, texture, and body than the dining hall’s. Neither is bad, but hummus lovers would be remiss not to sample Lula’s roasted red pepper take on the dish. The soup has never been a disappointment, paired perfectly with fresh pumpernickel bread. Lastly, the sandwiches and wraps are noteworthy. Egan’s four recommended dishes for first-timers are well-chosen: the house salad, the turkey brie sandwich, the veggie sandwich and the artichoke chicken spinach wrap. Lula’s recently added the Lagniappe Menu (Cajun for something extra, like the 13th in a baker’s dozen). The new menu includes more wraps and salads, and also a breakfast sandwich.One of Lula’s best features is its service. First-time diners might be put off by the clear-your-own table policy, but it almost seems right, after such friendly table service. Orders are placed at the register, where the chalkboard menu is changed frequently, and the food is brought right out to the table.