Over the past year, I’ve been pretty impressed with the food scene in Chapel Hill. Great additions like Hops Burger Bar, Cha House, MidiCi Italian Kitchen and more have really amped up the food scene in the area. And a recent media invite to the new Lula’s restaurant in Chapel Hill spiked my curiosity. I had known about the previous tenant in this space (Spanky’s) and had seen some social media on Lula’s eats so color me curious. And hungry! So I was excited to head out to the Thrill to try out Lula’s new brunch menu on a bright and cheery Sunday afternoon.
Stepping into Lula’s, you’ll find yourself in a classic looking restaurant full of polished woods and a black and white checkered floor. The space is bright and sunny, perfect for an afternoon meal along with plenty of seating. For today’s meal, we head upstairs to the private rooms which seats about 90 people. A table full of local social media influencers are waiting upstairs to get the meal started! Lula’s is part of the Chapel Hill restaurant group and helmed by Chef William D’Auvray, formerly from buku and Fins in Raleigh.
While Lula’s has been open since June 2018, their brunch menu was just launched in November. They’ve still got the great skillet chicken on the dinner menu but have also added classics such as chicken and waffles, eggs and sausage along with a biscuit benedict. Just be aware that Lula’s has a pretty short menu that’s really focused on fried chicken and Southern classics. Lula’s also offers up some great brunch cocktails with quirky names like the Breakfast Bramble (vodka, yogurt, fruit, blackberry jam, granola), Damn Fine Sunday (vodka, coffee liqeur, vanilla bean syrup) and more.
Over the course of two hours, we are treated to a barrage of wonderful Southern eats on Lula’s menu! First up are the wonderful biscuits at Lula’s. Now biscuits are a pretty simple food item but Lula’s elevates them to another level. Browned and bumpy, the biscuit here show off a crunchy, perfectly salted exterior along with a wonderfully fluffy interior. Paired with a thick and sticky sage honey, they could be a meal in themselves. But wisely, Lula’s uses them as a carb base for several of the other brunch dishes on the menu.
The next winner on the menu is Lula’s raised maple-bacon donuts with vanilla custard! Fresh out of the fryer, cake donuts are doused in syrup and served up with a round of baked custard and piece of crispy bacon. It hits all of your foodie senses with sweet and salty crunchiness along with the luscious custard. A fun play on the common donut and done very well. Counter-balancing the sweet of the donuts is the wonderful, layered strata! Thin slices of sweet potato and squash along with egg are stacked together in a tasty casserole and topped with cornbread and tomato. A great choice if you’re a vegetarian looking for something to eat. I found it quite satisfying even as a confessed meatatarian.
But of course, given Lula’s homage to fried chicken, we were all waiting on the main course! Served up in a cast iron skillet fit for a giant, a heaping pile of lovingly, browned Southern fried chicken is placed on a display table. Our group of influencers swarm about the chicken skillet but all I can tell you is that it’s very good! Soaked in a buttermilk wash and fried in a spice-laden coating, Lula’s does a great Southern fried chicken with plenty of taste and just enough salt. Although I admit, I wish I could have tried some of this cluck-cluck chicken in a dark meat, the breast still held up with good moist tenderness. We’re also served up a wonderful biscuit benedict topped with fried green tomato, country ham and hollandaise. Really nicely done, that biscuit steals the show again, offering up a great alternative to the classic English muffin.
Our lovely brunch finishes up with Chef William’s classic dessert, funeral cake! Apparently given out as solace for grieving friends and neighbors, the funeral cake is stacked high and tall with four levels of what I think is Devil’s Food cake along with a light buttercream frosting. A wonderful finish and touch to this Southern brunch. As we thank our gracious hosts and pass along good-byes to each other, I’m just trying to figure out when I can get back for a repeat visit. While the menu at Lula’s is not that big, they are executing really well on what’s coming out of that kitchen. And what’s coming out of Lula’s kitchen is some wonderful, heart-warming Southern fare with some slight twists. Add in those wonderfully crafted cocktails and I suspect you’ll be a happy camper at Lula’s for brunch. I’m glad to have it here on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill because while Spanky’s may have been a Carolina legend, I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t stand a chance against the great eats coming out of the kitchen now. So thank you Lula’s for a fantastic brunch and raising the bar for the Chapel Hill dining scene!