Neighborhood Gems: Lula Café
by HEATHER SPERLING - 11.8.2013

Last month, Tasting Table asked readers for their favorite neighborhood gems. Now through December, we'll highlight five picks from across the city. "What I don't want to be is a restaurant that's frozen in time," says Jason Hammel, Lula Café's chef and owner. Hammel has little need to worry; you'd never guess that his Logan Square stalwart is 15 years old. Lula Café is a place for casual Wednesday dinners and celebratory birthday feasts; a destination for whole wheat-sourdough griddlecakes at breakfast, a chickpea tagine at lunch, and chestnut pasta with braised wild boar at dinner. We've had some of our most memorably creative meals there--and some of our most comforting. Lula's perennial worldliness and cool are no accident; Hammel is as thoughtful and analytical a proprietor as they come. This is the chef who studied under David Foster Wallace, after all. There are two tenets of his restaurant philosophy: always hire talented youngsters, and make a consistent effort to connect with the community. To the latter point, Hammel is hosting his second annual benefit for Logan Square's Comfort Station, featuring five prominent Logan Square chefs, on Monday, November 11. Early next year he'll launch an online store featuring goods made by past and present Lula employees, with all proceeds going to charity. "My host makes amazing jewelry, my bartender publishes poetry books...I've always hired young, creative people who do amazing work." Keep drinking from that fountain of youth, Lula, and we'll keep coming--morning, noon and night.

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