Kansas City has seen plenty of exceptional pop-ups and home-based food businesses opening during the last two years, but the ones that are able to transition from pop-up to permanent fixture are those that offer a quality product, are open consistent hours and offer something missing from the current culinary landscape. Lula Southern Cookhouse checks all those boxes and more, and now, the concept is serving up Southern hospitality in its own warm and inviting space with a menu comparable to Sunday supper at Grandma’s house.
The new restaurant comes from Bradley and Brittney Gilmore and Brandon West, who also own and operate a catering company, Kravin’ It KC. With their collective talents, they are providing a top-notch dining experience with Bradley running the dining room and Brandon in the kitchen. Local bartender Matsumoto Mari was brought in to create a bar program full of Southern-inspired cocktails alongside a simple selection of beer and wine. All of the selections complement the food menu, which includes generous plates of fried chicken with all the fix-ins, tender biscuits (made by chef Jonathan Justus), a shrimp boil, a New Orleans-inspired pot pie and much more.
Lula Southern Cookhouse opened before the holidays as a month-long pop-up in the former Nara Japanese Sushi Grill. The partners were invited to look at the space through friends who knew that the landlord of the building was looking for a creative new concept to take over the lease.
“We started as a pop-up, but we are now on a month-to-month lease for Lula Southern Cookhouse, something we worked out with the landlord as proof our concept. We hope to talk about making it a permanent spot, operating our restaurant upstairs, and moving our catering kitchen for Kravin’ It KC from Shawnee downstairs into the basement here,” Bradley says.
While many of the classic comfort food spots in Kansas City tend to serve dishes more attuned to a Midwestern palate, Lula Southern Cookhouse has found a successful niche by serving those same dishes just using a Southern cook’s spice and seasoning rack – like how Bradley’s grandmother and namesake of the restaurant, Lula Mae Bryant, used to do in her own home kitchen.
“I grew up in Charleston, North Carolina, eating the wonderful Southern food there, and when I started cooking at Gram & Dun here in Kansas City, I added some of my favorite Southern dishes to the menu there,” Bradley says. “I always felt like we were missing a true Southern restaurant in Kansas City, so we opened our own. The restaurant was named after my grandmother, and the décor is an homage to all our grandmothers with pictures and personal items from them decorating the space, but the food is a true collaboration of myself and my partner, chef Brandon West.”
Open Wednesday through Saturday for dinner only, plus brunch on Sunday, Lula manages to elevate dishes without them feeling fine-dining fancy. The breakout hit on the dinner menu, for example, is a side that customers can’t seem to get enough of – Tabasco-glazed carrots.
“A lot of our dishes quickly proved to be popular with guests, like our shrimp and grits, fried catfish and even our vegan collard rolls with stuffed Cajun-spiced jackfruit, sweet potato hash and topped with our Creole sauce. But none of those compares to the reaction we have had to our most popular side dish, housemade Tabasco-glazed carrots,” Bradley says. “I think it is the combination of the sweetness from the carrots mixed with the tangy spice of our housemade hot sauce mixed with a bit of butter; people just love that dish.”
There is a nice selection of appetizers to start your meal or share with a friend while enjoying drinks at the bar, such as the Triple Dip, which offers a sampling of crawfish dip, pimento cheese and country ham salad served with benne seed crackers. The Vidalia onion bisque, made with caramelized Vidalia onions, bourbon cream, crispy shallots, melted leek, garlic-chive oil and paprika, is a nice second course before moving onto any of the main entrées, depending if you want leftovers to take home. Desserts sound deceptively simple, with options such as banana pudding in a jar, apple crisp and mud pie, but it seems like a necessary indulgence after dinner here.
Although Lula is technically still operating as a pop-up, Bradley, Brandon and their entire team are working hard to make sure their food and their hospitality will prove that the restaurant deserves a permanent place in the culinary fabric of Kansas City.
“We have been so busy with catering events through Kravin’ It KC and doing this pop-up, but we are working really hard to make both of these opportunities happen for us right now,” Bradley says. “Based on the response we are getting, we see a bright future for both of them.”
Lula Southern Cookhouse is open Wednesday and Thursday from 4 to 10pm, Friday and Saturday from 4pm to midnight and for Sunday brunch from 10am to 2pm.
Editor's note: This post has been updated to correct the name of Lula Southern Cookhouse.
Lula Southern Cookhouse, 1617 Main St., Crossroads Arts District, Kansas City, Missouri, 816.648.0808, lulakc.com.