Luella’s Southern Kitchen Restaurant Review – Southern Comfort in Chicago

Contemporary southern comfort food has been made its way to Chicago with the debut of Luella’s Southern Kitchen. Inspired by the meals cooked by his great grandmother (Luella), Chef/owner Darnell Reed scores a win with his very first restaurant. Located in the quaint German neighborhood of Lincoln Square at 4609 North Lincoln Avenue, Luella’s aims to please southern food lovers, and make them feel right at home, with a classic but modern edge.

The North Lincoln entrance to Luella's Kitchen

 

One of my favorite cities in the United States (besides Chicago) is New Orleans, Louisiana. I especially fell in love with the French Quarter, on my two visits there. The city is renowned for its historical architecture, endless live music, and of course, its food. Surprisingly, I ate extremely well down there as a vegetarian. When I found out Luella’s wanted their brunch menu reviewed, I jumped at the chance.

 

Luella’s is situated between local shops with a gray awning displaying its name. The inside is very narrow and long, cozy with a multi-tiered blue ceiling, a sand-dusted tiled floor, and wood paneled walls with cylinder lanterns. The walls were decorated with New Orleans style paintings, works that were all done by artist Ernie Barnes. My father and I noticed classic southern artists and music playing in the background, which enhanced the atmosphere. Wood tables and chairs were placed against the walls, and a long aisle led to the register, where customers placed their orders.

Walls are decorated with paintings by Ernie Barnes

 

 

The restaurant's interior

We gave our orders to the lovely, smiling hostess, Lakesha, and were led to our table. We started out with freshly brewed iced tea, which was served to us in glass mason jar mugs with handles.

 

Lakesha, our smiling hostess

 

 

A mason glass jug with iced tea and the well-known New Orleans fleur de lis

While we glanced at the brunch menu, I was excited to see how many vegetarian - friendly options were on the menu. (The dinner menu looked wonderful as well, but I reminded myself why I was here). My father also had some difficulty making up his mind. In the end, I settled on the cream cheese and praline pancakes buttermilk pancakes with fresh blueberry compote and homemade maple syrup. The pancakes were creamy and warm, and the blueberry compote crowned the dish with a just sweet enough finish.

Cream cheese and praline pancakes buttermilk pancakes with fresh blueberry compote

My father ordered the chicory coffee French toast with coffee crème brulee batter and fresh berries. He was very impressed with the dish, and enjoyed the slightly bitter but sweet coffee taste of the French toast.

 

Chicory coffee French toast coffee crème brulee batter with fresh berries

 

Of course, when you are eating good southern cooking, one must always have dessert! My ultimate choice is always freshly made beignets. I was thrilled to see them on the menu and ordered some. My father decided on a blackberry hand pie with a side of butterscotch ice cream. The beignets were heavenly, and were nice and hot, covered with powdered sugar. While eating them, they brought back memories of New Orleans, where I would get up each morning, stroll down to Café Beignet on Royal Street, and have fresh beignets and an iced tea, while watching passerby. My father loved the blackberry hand pie and butterscotch ice cream. Of course I had to sample the dish as well! The pie was nicely balanced with blackberries. The ice cream was a wise choice, which helped balance the salty and sweet of the dish.

 

Beignets fried dough pillows, generous dusting of confectioners sugar

 

Blackberry hand pie salted caramel ice cream

I think Chef Darnell chose the perfect restaurant debut for himself. Luella’s shows his love of southern food and cooking, his love for family, and of tradition. When I first met him, he seemed like a humble, smart, and friendly man. He welcomed us into his restaurant, and also visited and then chatted with customers, which I always admire.

  

Chef Darnell Reed hard at work in the kitchen

Chef Darnell originally hailed from Mississippi, but eventually, his family and great grandmother moved to Chicago. He grew up with his great grandmother’s southern cooking and techniques, such as gumbo and cornbread. Chef Darnell has traveled all over the world to study food; including Morocco, London, Paris, Finland, Puerto Rico, New York, Miami, and Las Vegas, and of course the south (New Orleans, Georgia, Charleston).  

As for his future endeavors, Chef Darnell hopes to one day expand his southern cooking kingdom, and open a food truck or sandwich shop (which will of course feature the famous New Orleans po’ boy!)

For information about the restaurant, or to make a reservation, go to the website.

Photos: Jennifer Lunz

4609 North Lincoln Avenue,

Chicago Illinois 60625 

Phone: 773-961-8196

  

Open:  Tuesday thru Friday 11:30 A.M-10 P.M 

Saturday 10 A.M-10 P.M

 

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