There are summer showers, and then there are gully washers. On this afternoon, rivers of water poured down South 7th Street as I pulled in to meet with Melanie and Brian Grimley, the beauty and the brawn behind Lulu’s at the Thompson House. When I popped in to greet my hosts after the rain died down, I found the place nearly full early on a soggy Tuesday afternoon.
I settled under the covered patio outside, where I watched a large group come down the coquina path and through the garden. Despite being tucked away off Centre Street, discerning diners seek out Lulu’s for its vibrant flavors and attention to detail. After spending the day in my classroom and kitchen at FBHS, I was looking forward to catching up with friends, tasting some of Lulu’s favorite dishes, and getting the scoop on their next enterprise, Lagniappe Restaurant, due to open later this year on the south end of the island.
One thing about Brian that can’t be overstated is his personal relationship with his food. In lieu of black beans on his fish tacos, Chef Brian uses Sea Island peas cooked slow and low and spiked with his blend of Creole herbs and spices. As I sampled them, I wondered how an Englishman became so enamored with the food of New Orleans and the Low Country, and as if on cue, Brian launched into a story about the first time he met Chef Paul Prudhomme.
The recent Southern food revival has brought many heirloom grains back to the market, a fact not lost on Brian or his Chef de Cuisine Carey Todd. Chef Carey was happy about a new company out of South Carolina called Geechie Boy Mill, a small family farm producing heirloom vegetables and some the finest grits I’ve ever tasted. Lulu’s Shrimp and Grits entree is loaded with andouille sausage, tasso ham, and local shrimp, but the grits in this dish don’t play second fiddle. Decadently creamy thanks to the coarse grind in an antique mill, the natural aroma of the corn shines through the piquant flavors of the bayou.
My favorite item on Lulu’s menu is their mussels: piled high, and swimming in a green curry broth. As I asked about the Grimleys’ next big adventure, Chef Carey appeared with a new version of the dish, ready for the menu at Lagniappe, topped with bacon and blue cheese. The smoky flavor of the bacon is an inspired partner to the tangy cheese, coating each mussel in a surprisingly light sauce without overpowering their subtle sweetness.
Lagniappe (lahn-yap) still has a few more months before it’s ready to host customers, but if the mussels are any indication, the menu is heavy on the wow factor. The restaurant will feature the food and the spirits of the southeastern United States.
While I am looking forward to Brian and Melanie’s next adventure, I am delighted that the quality food and family feeling that I love will still be available downtown. Lulu’s is located at 11 S. 7th Street and is open Sundays for brunch, and Tuesday through Saturday for lunch and dinner.