At this point I've taken dozens of people to Lula Cafe, and I don't say this lightly: it may be the best neighborhood restaurant in Chicago. One side of the menu is dedicated to cheap, surprising, delicious entrees in the $9-$13 range, like the Moroccan tagine: warm, cinnamony chickpea stew with chunks of sweet potato over couscous, with fresh greens strewn on top. The Tineka sandwich is—of all things—a spicy peanut butter sandwich with cukes and red onion and lots of other veggies, plus something they call "Indonesian sweet soy sauce." There's beet bruschetta, and peanut sesame noodles, and a great roast turkey sandwich; at brunch there's eggs Florentine and mascarpone-stuffed brioche French toast. Appetizers include a shiitake-spinach quesadilla and vegetarian maki. Then there's a more expensive menu ($10-$29, plus a vegetarian tasting menu), as if the owners just thought, "What the hell, this'll be fun too." These items change constantly but have included a scallops appetizer that makes vegetarians very sad to be vegetarians, a roast leg of lamb with sherry-braised mission figs and cippolini onions, and an ocean trout served with brandade-stuffed peppers. I brought a friend who's a professional chef in New York, and he stuck around for hours to order nearly everything on the menu. And then we came back the next night.
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