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Lulu in Germantown

In Germantown, Lulu finds its footing with an expanded bar, healthful bowls and sandwiches, and a pleasing personality.

Written By:  Erin B. Murray

Photographers:  Emily Hall Dorio

When restaurateur Miranda Pontes talks about her latest restaurant, Lulu, which opened in Germantown this spring, she personifies it this way: “She’s sassy, hardheaded, and brave. She’s sweet and she wants to make everybody happy all the time.”

This is Pontes’s eighth restaurant opening—she also founded Burger Up, Josephine, Prima, and others. But this is the first, she says, with a defined personality. And like most young humans, Lulu has been unruly. Pontes has been public about the restaurant having issues with things like pricing right out of the gate. She’s also publicly let the community know that they’re making changes. What was once an all-day concept, meant to provide a breakfast and coffee joint has morphed into a lunch and dinner restaurant with a serious bar program—because that’s what the neighborhood made clear that it wanted.

Now that the kinks have been worked out, the restaurant seems to be on firm footing. What hasn’t changed is the design. There are hints of Scandinavian influence, white-painted brick, light woods, exposed ductwork, and rounded wicker chairs. In white neon, the words “Yes To All” are spelled out above the cashier stand. For Pontes, it’s both a welcoming statement as well as a reminder to be open to the idea of change.

The menu, meanwhile, has evolved. There are still easy, approachable dishes—sandwiches, toasts, bowls, and a simple roast chicken.

“The Good Thing bowl is probably the heart of Lulu,” Pontes says. With a base of brown rice, it’s piled with edamame, radish slices, and greens and gets hit with a carrot-ginger dressing; add-ons include a long slice of salmon, or the house-made veggie burger, which you can also get on its own and vaguely resembles the one Pontes originally conceptualized for Burger Up.

There are also burger sliders as well as a few bright but hearty salads. On toast, you can get avocado topped with radish slices or ricotta dotted with berries and drizzled with honey. The Pico bowl reads “breakfast” with the options for bacon and a fried egg add-on, but the savory fried rice and scallion are flavors that people turn to all day long.

A long wooden bar sits at the center of the space—and Pontes is working to make it the concept’s center point, too. Because Lulu is fast casual—instructions on the menu direct you to: “Get in line. Place order. Take number”—the bar offers a place to sit and watch as the kitchen quickly pulls together your dish. But Pontes sees that space evolving and growing into more of an actual bar, with an expanded cocktail list and more beer and wine offerings.

Even with the operating instructions, members of the staff are quick to step over while you stand in line and offer a recommendation or a better understanding of what’s in a dish. Hospitality is a key part of what Pontes hopes to foster at Lulu, starting with that welcoming “yes to all” statement and finishing with a do-it-yourself soft-serve ice cream machine, which servers encourage you to stop by and pull from at the end of the meal. All of it is in hopes of serving the Germantown neighborhood, Pontes says.

“I don’t want to repeat what’s already being done. I have a responsibility to the neighborhood and to give it what Lulu is supposed to be,” she says.

313 Jefferson St., 615-540-0444; lulunashville.com

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