By REBECCA S. NIEMINEN
IF YOU GO
Where: Lulu Beans Cafe, 234 E. State St., Sharon, Pa.
Hours: Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Fridays 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturdays 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sundays 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Mondays – closed
By REBECCA S. NIEMINEN
Although Lulu Beans Cafe in downtown Sharon opened only three weeks ago, it’s already a bustling, popular spot.
During my recent lunchtime visit, patrons flooded the sleekly renovated State Street location until it was standing room only.
Jen Krezeczowski, who owns the establishment along with her fiance, Jim Landino, said Lulu Beans was born from a desire to provide customers with health-conscious cuisine and specialty coffees in a comfortable, trendy setting.
“We wanted a coffee place in downtown Sharon where people could gather for healthy food,” Krezeczowski said, adding, “We know a lot of people who need food that is dairy-free and gluten-free, so we created a menu that offers those alternatives.”
The Lulu Beans menu boasts soups, salads, desserts, breakfast and a construct-a-bowl option that allows patrons to create their own meals from a bevy of healthy ingredients, both hot and cold.
My dining experience began with two of the cafe’s signature soups: the rustic vegetable soup and Jim’s chili (both $4 per cup and $5.50 per bowl).
The rustic vegetable soup blends squash, carrots, tomatoes, celery and other veggies in a flavorful, hearty broth and is perfect for a wintry afternoon. It fills you up, but since it’s good for you, there’s no guilt.
Before I tell you about Jim’s chili, let me preface it by saying I was skeptical of a chili that included sweet potatoes and carrots. After one bite, however, I was thoroughly wowed.
The blend of tomatoes, carrots, navy beans, kidney beans, sweet potatoes, ground turkey and ground beef is absolutely delicious. It is one of the best chilis I have ever tasted.
“We call it a kitchen-sink chili because of the variety of ingredients,” Krezeczowski said. “The chili and rustic vegetable soup are always on the menu. We also have chowders and different soups depending on the season.”
If you’re having a bowl of soup, you might as well have a sandwich, too. I sampled the Cali turkey bacon wrap and the steak panini (both $8.50).
The Cali turkey bacon wrap features roasted turkey, smoked bacon, sharp cheddar, lettuce and avocado ranch. The sharp cheddar adds a tasty bite to the creamy ranch, crunchy iceberg lettuce, hearty turkey and savory bacon.
Just as yummy is the steak panini. This gem features roasted red peppers, portobello mushrooms, grilled steak and bleu cheese crumble. What a mouth-watering blend of tastes and textures! Although I tend to gravitate more toward chicken or turkey, this sandwich will be what I order the next time I visit Lulu Beans.
If you love creating your own entree, Lulu’s construct-a-bowl option will delight you.
Patrons can choose from a mega bowl ($9.95), which includes two bases, two proteins, two veggies and one sauce; a medium bowl ($7.95), which features two bases, one protein, one veggie and one sauce; a mini bowl ($6.95), which offers one base, one protein, one veggie and one sauce; or a veggie bowl ($6.95), which includes one base, four veggies and one sauce.
Cold base options include: green salad, veggie quinoa, pesto couscous, Asian kale cabbage slaw or gluten-free sweet potato noodles. Hot base options include: sweet potato mash, coconut rice, Udan noodles, mini roasted potatoes and forbidden black rice. Protein options include: citrus chicken, gluten-free baked pecan chicken, marinated steak and roast turkey. Veggie options include: roasted parmesan broccoli, roasted brussels sprouts, sesame green beans, baby portobello mushrooms, squash medley and garlic turmeric cauliflower.
Sauce options include nut-free pesto, herb balsamic, teriyaki, coconut curry ginger, citrus vinaigrette, honey sriracha, avocado ranch, bleu cheese, thai chili, roasted garlic and barbecue.
“The bowls are really popular because people can choose exactly what they want, and there are so many delicious combinations,” Krezeczowski said.
If you dine at Lulu Beans and have any room left for dessert, I recommend a cheesecake cup ($3.50). I sampled the gingerbread cheesecake, and it was one of the creamiest, dreamiest cheesecakes I’ve ever tasted. Other cheesecake cup varieties include strawberry and turtle.
There’s also a chocolate zucchini muffin that is so moist, chewy and chocolatey you’ll forget you’re also eating a vegetable.
Additional dessert items include: raspberry tiramisu ($4.75); apple crisp ($3.50); Miss Mae’s gluten-free coconut macaroons (two for $3.25) and Jess’ big ole cookies (chocolate chip and gingersnaps $2.25).
Lulu Beans also has a kids’ menu and a breakfast menu. The breakfast menu offers everything from muffins to hot steel-cut oats, yogurt, scrambled eggs and scones.
The coffee at Lulu Beans is roasted weekly at Branch Street Coffee Roasters in Boardman. All syrups and specialty flavors are made in-house. Lulu Beans also has a full line of teas from Special-Teas Etc. in Volant, Pa.
And just in case you’re wondering, Lulu Beans Cafe was named after Krezeczowski and Landino’s dog.
Krezeczowski, who has a degree in interior design, has revamped the building, which was previously an insurance company, into a space that is chic, fun and welcoming.
“I’ve dreamed of having a restaurant since I was 17 years old,” Krezeczowski said. “It’s really exciting to be doing so well with our opening. We have a lot of plans for partnering with local purveyors and establishing ourselves as a place to get health-conscious food in a friendly, fast atmosphere.”