Hang on to your Maryland hearts, hon: Lulu’s Maryland-Style Chicken and Seafood’s Central Avenue location is open for takeout today, March 3.
- The grand opening, with dine-in service and a full bar, is set for March 17.
Why it matters: Praise be, the gospel of real crab cakes is spreading in Charlotte.
What’s happening: This is what owners Jay and Miketa Davis were dreaming of when they opened the first Lulu’s on Tuckaseegee Road in November 2019.
- That spot, small and charming with its cracked-up parking lot and tight dining room and kitchen, drew lines around the block that winter, as Charlotte got a taste of what a jumbo-lump crab cake should be: Baseball-sized and full of actual meat.
What to expect: The Central Avenue location, which took 15 months to build, will have mostly the same menu (and crab cakes), but will ultimately be a full dining experience, with waitstaff complete with full bar, indoor-outdoor seating and lounge spaces.
- Natural light abounds in the new space with three garage doors that’ll stay open on warm days.
- A side patio connects to Pinhouse’s outdoor space next-door.
What they’re saying: “This is what we were aiming for from the beginning. The first spot was a step, jumping off the porch and diving in,” Jay says. “Central will be our prototype moving forward. What you see here on Central Avenue will be the standard for Lulu’s brand going forward.”
On the menu: More than crab cake. Jay, who’s from Baltimore, and Miketa, who’s from Prince George’s County just outside Washington, also bring the Maryland-style fried “yard bird”:
- Chicken and waffles, whole wings, wingettes. And the key dipping solutions, sweet-and-sour mumbo sauce or honey Old Bay sauce.
- They also have grilled options of the shrimp and salmon variety.
Details: At 2308 Central Ave., the new Lulu’s is next to Pinhouse. It’ll be open five days a week, Wednesday through Sunday, from 11am-11pm.
- For two weeks, they’re just doing takeout while the staff learns their recipes and they await a full liquor license.
- Unlike the early days of the original spot, Miketa and Jay won’t be doing most of the cooking. Instead they’ve hired a full staff, with a GM and managers in the kitchen and bar.
- The next two weeks will be a soft opening, leading up to the March 17 celebration.
The big picture: Miketa and Jay were all smiles Thursday morning after a difficult 2021 that included a crab cake shortage and supply chain challenges pushed back construction.
- The city is installing a roundabout at the intersection in front of the original location on Tuckaseegee, making it difficult to even get to that restaurant. Of the five roads that meet there, four are shut down.
- “We’ve been in the parking lot and watched the same car go to barricade to barricade to barricade and not ever show up,” Miketa says, adding the business there is down about 65% from 2020.
- “And the city doesn’t give none of that money back, let me tell you,” Jay says.
Backstory: Before he was slinging crab cakes, Jay was a bounty hunter. That’s how he arrived in Charlotte: He was living in Baltimore and took an assignment to chase a club owner who’d fled here.
- The bail bondsman’s daughter was at the office when Jay stopped in: It was Miketa.
- She was from Maryland, too, only about 30 minutes down the road from Jay’s stomping grounds.
- Their first date was at a Waffle House, and love smothered them from there.
He started working as a bail bondsman here, but then Miketa challenged him to do what made him happy. More than anything, he wanted something he could pass down to his children.
They signed the lease on the first Lulu’s in September 2019, and opened that November after a 30-day buildout.
- The name, LuLu’s, is an ode to Jay’s mother, with whom he didn’t have much of a relationship until he was an adult.
We published a story about the restaurant in December 2019. It went viral, and soon they had lines curling down the block.
COVID wiped a lot of people out, but not them. Takeout business was good. And in summer 2020, people rushed to support Black-owned businesses in solidarity following the murder of George Floyd.
- The Davises got married on July 18, 2020 in a ceremony was on Lake Wylie after their Key West destination wedding was canceled thanks to COVID.
The year was, in most ways, the best of their lives.
In late 2020, they called with news they were expanding Lulu’s to a Central Avenue location.
- They expected to open sometime in early 2021. Then came all of its frustrations.
- But it’s 2022, and Lulu’s on Central is open for takeout at last, with a big celebration planned for March 17 — a day known for better luck.