Lulu’s Shake Shoppe Comes From the Same Whimsical Mind as HUB and Playground
By Teya Vitu
Little league baseball hot dog stand meets Amsterdam frites and falafel shop.
There’s no baseball field or canal anywhere near Congress and 5th Avenue, but that’s not stopping Kade Mislinski from his latest culinary homage to his childhood.
Lulu’s Shake Shoppe faces out into the parking lot behind HUB Restaurant & Ice Creamery and Playground Lounge, Mislinski’s two other whimsical Downtown ventures that have each met with popular success since opening in February 2011 and January 2012.
Lulu’s is a window where you order “milkshakes, hot dogs, tater-tots, frites, falafel,” as Mislinski promotes the primary offerings. The idea is “grab and go.” You can stand and eat right there, outside, at a standing dining area or you can pick at your cone of frites (French fries) or tots as you walk to wherever you’re going.
“Literally, it’s grab a bite to eat,” Mislinski said. “It’s for when you don’t have time for a full dining experience. This basically will be a two-three minute experience. There’s a big snack bar feel to this.”
Lulu’s plans to open Oct. 13 with 2nd Saturdays.
Lulu’s is for the Downtown nighttime crowd much more than the daytime shopping and office worker population. Downtown at night is a much different world.
Hours for Lulu’s likely will be 4:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. or maybe opening at 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. For right now, Mislinski is saying 4:30 p.m.
“It’s almost 6 to 3 is better than 4:30 to 2:30,” he mused.
Mislinski motivation isn’t exactly meeting a specific or even vague public demand but rather creating demand for his offbeat concepts. So far so good for him. There could not have possibly been a vocal demand for a restaurant that gives equally billing to beef and 23 rotating quirky flavors of house made ice cream (honey ginger, s’mores, cinnamon toast and grandpa’s breakfast [bacon, scotch, maple, waffle], as examples). HUB instantly made the short list for “name a Downtown restaurant.”
Equally, surely nobody but Kade Mislinski was hankering for a bar with a playground theme.
Lulu’s is no less drawing outside the lines with crayons.
The name is Lulu’s Shake Shoppe, but Mislinski’s more excited about falafels and the garnish bar for dogs, fries and tots.
“The garnish bar is the biggest part of the concept,” he acknowledged. “The food comes plain. You make it what you want with the garnish bar.”
Right now, the garnish bar will have about a dozen toppings: ketchup, two kinds of mustard, mayonnaise (not the American glop out of a jar but rather the divine mayo variant common to Belgium and the Netherlands), onions, relish, sauerkraut, special sauces, Israeli salad, pickled cabbage, peppers, shredded cheese.
“There’s going to be more,” Mislinski promised. That’s the basic theme with everything at Lulu’s. “This is just a beginning menu.”
And then there are the falafels.
“I’m taking the falafel a lot more seriously than I thought I would,” Mislinski said. “It’s crispy on the outside and soft inside. I’m adding peppers and a little spice. I want people to go ‘wow!’” What Mislinski really did was enact docile nibbling vs. a contrasting bite with eyes wide open and expostulating an indecipherable noise. That’s the diner reaction he wants from his falafel.
“The falafel is important because it addresses vegans and vegetarians at night,” he said.
Lulu’s is named for Mislinski’s future mother-in-law. She is the mother of Jenny Rice, described by Mislinski as his “girlfriend, future wife, baby’s mom, best friend.” The baby is 22-month-old son, Polo: “Polo is here every day. He helps clean.”
“I was looking at a picture of Lulu when she was a kid,” Mislinski said. “She was on a tricycle in a cotton field in Avondale. She looked at the picture and said ‘I love banana milkshakes.’”
Banana, vanilla and chocolate will be the three standard shake flavors. There will be two rotating special flavors every days. The ice cream will be made in-house just like the dozens of ice cream flavors for HUB – but it won’t be the same ice cream.
“These ice creams are going to be made for shakes. It’s a little softer with a little less butter fat,” he said.
Lulu’s merges Lulu’s childhood in Avondale with Mislinski’s memories of his childhood little league world and young adult years in Amsterdam.
Mislinski visited Amsterdam five times to visit his godmother between the ages of 16 and 25. His visits were long enough that he even did some DJing there. And he learned falafels are a mainstream snack and that mayonnaise really is the only acceptable condiment for pommes frites, the common European way to refer to fries.
“It’s milk shake meets Amsterdam,” he said. “It’s not Belgian fries. It’s Dutch frites. The big thing there is the all come in cones. You’re going to see the Dutch saying for ‘enjoy your meal’ on the cone.”