Milwaukee: Hummus, Not Burgers, Steal the Show at Cafe Lulu
2261 S Howell Ave, Milwaukee WI 53207 (map); 414-294-lulu; lulubayview.com
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order:Half-pound burgers are bland and overcooked, but at least the buns are pretty good
Want Fries With That? No fries are served. Homemade chips are better with the blue cheese dip, but the hummus is the best
Price:Classic burger, $9.75; Mexi-Cali Burger, $10.75; hummus appetizer, $6.25
Cafe Lulu is a cornerstone of Milwaukee's hip Bayview neighborhood. Surrounded by coffee shops, taquerias, and gastropubs, Lulu serves a menu of mostly sandwiches with a distinctly healthy slant—no fried appetizers, or even french fries, here.
Since I've had tasty sandwiches at Lulu before, I figure it was about time to try the burgers. Next time, though, I'll stick with the sandwiches. Their burgers weren't bad, but they didn't stand out in a city filled with good burgers, let alone a restaurant with great sandwiches and salads.
All their burgers are half-pounders, though they seemed skimpier than that. The flavor of the grill dominated the flavor of the beef, especially since both burgers I ordered were overcooked and a bit too charred around the edges. One of the burgers, a classic cheeseburger, was especially dry and could have used a slathering of sauce. Ketchup had to suffice.
The Mexi-Cali burger came with more toppings, lending more flavor and moisture. The chihuahua cheese was abundant and slightly sharp and the avocado added some richness to the overcooked beef. The best part of the burger, though, didn't come on my burger: I had to ask for the black bean salsa, which the kitchen forgot to put on my burger. With that chunky pico-style salsa, the burger finally had something going for it.
Though the Mexi-Cali burger's beef was seasoned with ground ancho chiles and adobo, according to the menu, I couldn't really discern any difference between it and the classic cheeseburger's beef.
One saving grace to these burgers was the buns. They were soft and supple but held together. They had a great squishiness to them, reminding me of potato rolls.
Sides that come with burgers are homemade potato chips or Asian slaw (for an upcharge you can get salad or roasted veggies). I stuck with chips because from past experience, the cabbage and ramen noodle slaw is way too heavy on the sesame oil for my tastes. The chips could use more salt, and some aren't very crunchy, but they improve with the optional ranch-like blue cheese dip.
The best part of the meal—and that probably says a lot about the burgers—was the homemade hummus appetizer. It wasn't very traditional: thick enough to stand a spoon in and light on the tahini. But it was heavy on garlic and lemon and surprisingly smooth. Paired with warm toasted pita, this app was gone within minutes. A nice change from the typical appetizers.
Though Lulu's a popular spot, I'd steer clear of the burgers and stick with what they seem to do best: sandwiches and homemade dips.
About the author: Lacey Muszynski is an editor, freelance writer and restaurant reviewer from Milwaukee, WI. When she's not burgerblogging on AHT, she might be updating her food blog, making fun of the Food Network, or wondering what her art degree has to do with all of this. Her idols growing up included Martin Yan, Chairman Kaga, and whoever was on Great Chefs, Great Cities that day.