Chez Lulu Rocks!

Every so often, I’ve got to get my French bistro on.  In Birmingham, that means Chez Lulu. That it is one of my two top favorite brunches in the city is just an added bonus on a Sunday like today.

Food fans from Birmingham can just skip the rest of this review. You already know the wonder of this restaurant with its funky décor perhaps gleaned from estate sales and vintage shops; perhaps from a really expensive decorator.  Who cares?  The food rocks.

The magic began as it often does with service of the complementary rustic sourdough plate made at the Continental Bakery next door  and of the same ownership.  The bread  is normally accompanied by a saucer of olive oil, which I find slightly odd, as my favorite flavor of the classic trio is the mildly sweet raisin-nut sourdough.  But I just ask the waiter for butter, which they are happy to provide.

A little café au lait gets the party started for real, and today, I had the tarte combo with a tarragon chicken salad on the side.  I was not disappointed by the plentiful wild mushrooms in a perfectly flaky, delicious, non-soggy crust.  And if you’ve never had it, the tarragon chicken salad is a revelation of flavor featuring large white chunks and perfect amount of fresh herbs.  It also comes in a large size if you want salad as a meal.

I finished with one of the crepes du jour–a fresh strawberry number filled with creamy goat cheese and topped with local honey.  Altogether, the crepe was the perfect size for a final course but you can add more of them and make it your main if you are into that kind of thing.  The strawberries looked and tasted like they should; red throughout, juicy, and not too acidic. And, happily, there were just enough of them on top to have a bit of it with each bite.  I’m kind of obsessive like that. 

If you decide to get your bistro on and you’ve never been to Chez Lulu before just be forewarned:  when I say bistro, I ain’t kiddin’ around.  The tables are uncomfortably small and even though the portions are not overlarge, you will likely end up with the salt and pepper shakers on the floor if you share a two top with someone else.  But if you like getting to know your neighbor, this may be the spot for you.  You may just want to consider the real estate you are given when choosing what to order.

Additionally,  you may end up waiting a bit for a table during peak times, but it won’t usually take long.  Whatever you do, however, don’t give into the temptation to ask to eat at the bar instead of waiting.  I did that once and found the four-inch counter overhang insufficient coverage for drips and stuff.  Moreover, people had a hard time walking behind me as they passed from the front door to all but two of the tables.  That bar is pretty much just for drinkin’.

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Kool Korner Sandwiches–Your Cuban Destination

Looking for an authentic (and really awesome) Cuban sandwich?  I was after I saw the Cuban Sandwich episode of “Throw-Down with Bobby Flay.”  To be perfectly frank, I thought the odds of finding even a passable one in Birmingham, Alabama, to be somewhere between slim and none.  Boy, was I wrong!

As luck, kismet, or karma would have it, one of the best Cubans in the South just happens to be made right here for lunch and dinner, six days a week. 

Kool Korner was founded in 1985, in Atlanta, Georgia, by Ildefonso and Lucia Ramirez, who both emigrated to the U.S. from Cuba in 1972.  The shop was a grocery store that was slowly converted to a sandwich shop and both Ildefonso and Lucia worked and lived in the old building.  It’s proximity to Georgia Tech in Midtown and reasonable prices for hearty fare made it a classic hangout for students and locals alike.

Nonetheless, in 2009, the Ramirez’s picked-up Kool Korner and moved it to the Publix strip mall on Montgomery Highway in Vestavia Hills.  That’s right!  It’s not a chain, but the orginal shop with newer digs and the same great sandwiches.

And if you are not into pork–shame on you–but there are roast beef, salads, Cuban tamales, black bean soup, and many other options to choose from.  For dessert, try a delicious Guava and Cream Cheese Pastelito, which is like a giant puff pastry filled with thick, sweet guava jam and cream cheese, strangely reminiscent of King Cakes.

Check out the entire menu and get information on hours and location at http://www.koolkornersandwiches.com. You won’t regret it!

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