The original Lulu’s Maryland-Style Chicken and Seafood on Tuckaseegee Road, the smash-hit restaurant from 2019 that had people lined up around the block for baseball-sized crab cakes, will reboot in mid-September under a new name and with a simpler menu.
- Lulu’s Express Fry House will have fish and chicken baskets with sides of coleslaw and fries, while still serving the wings and mac and cheese and mumbo sauce that have always rounded out Lulu’s menus, owner Jay Davis tells me.
Yes, but: It won’t have the famous crab cakes.
Fret not, though: Those jumbo cakes will still be the centerpiece of the Lulu’s on Central Avenue, which opened in March with a full bar and dining room. That location will now be the flagship.
What’s happening: Crabmeat, like most food products, has hit budget-wrecking prices and remains in short supply. When Davis and his wife, Miketa, opened the second Lulu’s location on Central in the spring, they were splitting their crabmeat shipments between the two spots and hoping the market would improve. It hasn’t. At least not enough.
- Add to that the staffing troubles that have plagued most restaurants since the pandemic, and the Davises realized they needed to scale back to become sharper at the location on Central. After all, they’d spent more than a year renovating there and pumped tons of money into the spot.
- They closed their bar, Hideaway, on Tuckaseegee and moved most of that staff over to the new Lulu’s.
- Then they shut down the original Lulu’s on Tuckaseegee, started renovating and rethinking the approach there.
Between the lines: When the original Lulu’s opened in 2019 in an old building with a pothole-filled parking lot, customers (including your writer) fell for the idea of a low-key spot turning out the best crab cakes in town.
- The shiny new location on Central, with its big window walls and full bar, brought higher expectations and tougher online reviews.
- And yes, Davis read them, and started to realize he needed to dial it in. The former bounty hunter who could still bench press a small truck says the comments hurt, but were informative.
- “The easiest way to put it is it’s like when you’re out in public, someone says, ‘You have an ugly baby,’” he says. “We’ve had some hiccups and hurdles that we’ve had to get over. Some issues that were unforeseen. We’re just hoping to maintain the standards across the board now.”
What to expect: The Fry House on Tuckaseegee will be slimmer, more straightforward and have lower price points. It will have some of the favorite menu items from Hideaway — yeah, those wings.
- It will also have tables and seats, like the original pre-pandemic Lulu’s on Tuckasegee did.
Worth noting: Jay tells me the Fry House will still have the crab fries, if not the crab cakes.