Lulu and Blu is a standout in High Point’s emerging dining scene
Lulu and Blu is small but mighty. The restaurant—which is tucked in a small shopping center off North Main—opened in late 2014 as part of the well-known Blue Restaurant Group, but has been under new ownership since March.
Now, the ship is helmed by chef/proprietor Jeremy Walley and his partner in both life and business, Kylie Tucker. Borrowing inspiration from Italy and the American South, Walley’s unique take on traditional Italian fare is a standout among the International City’s dining scene, particularly in terms of quality and creativity.
Walley, who grew up in Miami, said he’s always had a fascination with food. “Food is such a big deal down there—I remember my parents would always take us out to Pollo Tropical,” he said, referring to the Florida-based casual Caribbean restaurant chain with a cult following. When the family relocated to North Carolina, he worked at Giacomo’s Italian Market in Greensboro as a teenager. “It was only after working there that I thought about culinary school,” Walley said. “Until then, I never thought of cooking as a career.”
After a stint at GTCC’s culinary school, Walley landed a gig at Bluewater Grille, where he met restaurateur and Blue Restaurant Group mastermind, Paul Riggan. After four and a half years at Bluewater, he joined Lulu and Blu as lead chef for two and a half years until opening his own food-focused venture, a food truck called Manna. When Riggan decided to sell the Lulu and Blu earlier this year, Walley seized the opportunity to own the restaurant he helped birth and the rest, as they say, is history.
Many customers may not have noticed the switch, as most of the changes are subtle. “We already knew what sold and that there were certain things we could not take off the menu,” Walley said. “For instance, the carbonara and the Bolognese had to stay. People also love the lasagna and the calamari, and the flatbreads were a huge hit. One of the first things I did when I came back was start making gluten-free flatbreads.”
The flatbreads are just one example of many health-and-diet-focused dishes on the uber-creative menu. “We try to offer something for everyone as far as gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan and price point as well,” Walley said. “If you want a $35 steak, we can accommodate that—but if you want chicken parmesan, we can do that, too.”
Almost everyone loves Italian food, but what separates the mundane from the outstanding—as in Lulu and Blu’s case—is the focus on high-quality (often local) ingredients and creativity that can only be learned from years of perfecting flavor combinations and cooking techniques that truly showcase the regions they represent.
The restaurant is open for lunch Monday through Friday and offers a fantastic selection of salads, wraps, sandwiches, flatbreads, pasta, paninis and small plates. I was thrilled to see both chicken marsala and chicken piccata—two of my favorite Italian dishes—available in wrap form…Brilliant! There’s also a soup, frittata, and risotto of the day. And salad lovers, welcome to your happy place: you’ll find seven choices ranging from caesar and kale to Caprese and the “Blu”—a flavor bomb of iceberg lettuce, smoked pork belly, boiled egg, gorgonzola, peppadew, pickled red onion, roasted squash and basil buttermilk dressing.
The dinner menu is equally varied and impressive, starting with a robust appetizer selection. Think pork belly with braised kale and goat cheese polenta, crab cakes, charcuterie, and the delicious “Lulu dip,” a combination of mascarpone, artichoke hearts and sun-dried tomatoes served with homemade parmesan focaccia. You’ll find some crossover from the lunch menu as far as salads and sandwiches, and more entrée and pasta choices. Supporting local farmers is a priority for both Walley and Tucker, and you’ll find several featured farms on the menu: mushrooms from Borrowed Land Farms; Berkshire pork chops, duck and guanciale (cured pork cheeks) from Harmony Ridge Farms; chanterelles from a local forager; and air-roasted coffee beans from North Carolina roaster Magic Beans.
Tucker, who has experience in fine dining, also gave the wine list a makeover. “Before we took over, it was just American and Italian wines,” she said. “We’ve added some Spanish wines, as well as wines from Argentina, to offer a few more rounded and global choices.”
The duo welcomes diners to their sleek yet cozy spaces and said that local support means everything. Hopefully, Lulu and Blu is the first of many restaurant endeavors to come. “It’s exciting to be part of the revitalization,” Tucker said. “You hear those stories about being in the right place at the right time…In 20 years, High Point could be amazing.”
My assessment: Lulu and Blu is easily one of my favorite places to eat in the Triad. The upscale yet casual vibe, affordable options, high-quality ingredients, and friendly staff make this a definite must on your foodie to-do list. A bonus is that no matter what kind of diet you may be on, Lulu and Blu can accommodate it, which makes this a great spot to take out-of-town visitors and picky eaters.
Davina van Buren is an award-winning travel and food writer based in High Point. You can find her on social media @HighPointFoodie.
Lulu and Blu is located at 2140 N. Main St. in High Point. They’re open from 11:30 a.m.–2 p.m. and 5:30–9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11:30 a.m.–2 p.m. and 5:30–10 p.m. Friday; and 5:30–10 p.m. on Saturday. The restaurant is closed on Sunday.