Lulu's doesn't have the best reputation in town. Truth be told, a lot of folks grimaced when I told them I was visiting the joint. But I'm here to dispel Lulu's negative reputation.
Lulu's is a 24/6 diner off the Main and I-35 intersection just north of downtown. Housed in a defunct Denny's, Lulu's doesn't stray far from the genre, serving platefuls of eggs, sandwiches, and an infamous chicken fried steak. It's Texas comfort food that isn't remarkable for anything other than hours, location, and wi-fi - which for me is a heck of an endorsement.
On a recent late night, the diner filled with emo punk kids, adults with suspiciously strange odors, and an elderly couple, who seemed to be from out of town. The waitresses, a friendly lot, didn't seem to care that I wanted to set up shop: Lulu's is one of the few restaurants in town that host wireless internet access for their customers, and they don't mind laptops. Typing away, I chowed down on a burger - a decent, large, if somewhat bland burger - that disappeared quickly with consistent saltings. The fries - and keep in mind that I am a connoisseur - needed ketchup badly, but they, too, vanished with speed.
"If Mama Ain't Happy, Ain't Nobody Happy," reads a sign over the kitchen, but some suggest that the motto is more applicable to the cops who frequent the diner. Most of Lulu's chicken fried steaks bear names like the "Police Chief Special" - and it's rumored that cops get the best food in the place. At least, that is the semi-serious reason a friend suggested that my ham sandwich was so sparse: If I had been wearing the blue, he joked, I would have received a heftier plate. Whatever the case, my sandwich - hyped on the menu as bearing pit-smoked ham - arrived with one, maybe two, slices of meat. What was there was tasty, but the assembly - topped with a slice of semi-melted American cheese, and accompanied by a bag of Ruffles - was less than impressive. And for $7 including a Dr. Pepper, I left feeling cheated.
Breakfast was an entirely different experience. A Western omelette filled an entire plate: stuffed full of sliced ham, sautéed onion, tomato, bell pepper, Lulu's Bakery and Cafe melted American cheese, and mushrooms. This omelette was exactly what it was supposed to be: fattening, semi-greasy, and just the thing for an early morning recovery. The accompanying hash browns, cubes of slightly mushy potatoes with skins and pepper, were perfect. A healthy dose of the fresh salsa Lulu's provided for the omelette made them even better. Breakfast was so large that it was dinner, too - and even reheated, the egg envelope was exactly right. Lulu's knows breakfast.
As for the chicken fried steak, I never quite had the courage. A neighboring diner - an enormous man - exclaimed upon seeing the plate, "I need a to-go box." His fried meat was literally larger than his plate, and smothered in queso. Later, he told the waitress to send the cook a message: "You let him know even big people can't finish that." It was too much for him, and too much for me; I'll let braver souls tread that well-worn path. •