By Susan L. Wright
At LuLu's Oceanside Grill, co-owner Ron DeFillippo particularly likes one compliment they've had recently.
"People tell us that we're like 'Cheers,' a place where 'everybody knows your name,'" he said, referring to the fictional Boston hangout from the iconic sitcom.
Lulu's is a lot more than a bar, but it's very much the kind of place that locals like to head to regularly to relax and enjoy a casual meal or drink and maybe visit with some friends and neighbors.
It's close to the center of Ormond Beach's most popular restaurant and bar areas, but it is tucked back on a quiet street, a block off of both bustling A1A and Granada Boulevard.
They make sure that once you find it, you'll remember the laidback charm and the welcoming atmosphere -- and the eclectic and extensive selection of food and drink.
The décor is distinctive and attractive, capitalizing on the beachside setting with a bit of a retro twist. The walls inside are decorated with vintage 1950s and '60s posters, and black and white blow-ups of photographs of local bathing beauties from that era. Mr. DeFilippo proudly points out most of the beauties pictures have come in since they opened, many are signed and some of the women have become regulars. One of the women, he said, celebrated her 80th birthday with friends at a table right under her old photograph.
The menu includes an abundance of seafood items, including seafood tacos and seafood fondue, calamari and fish and chips and a wondrous sounding Tuscan seafood stew.
There's a raft of specialty drinks, distinctive versions of margaritas, champagne cocktails and more, with an array of specials for almost every day.
Those have been staples at LuLu's since they opened seven years ago.
But Mr. DeFilippo and partner, Jeff Bartholomew, don't believe in standing still. They're also proud of their latest innovations as the restaurant takes the leap into going "green." In fact, they now offer a free recharging station for electric cars right out front. Mr. DeFillippo (who also owns the Swamp in Gainseville, among other restaurants) said almost all of the restaurants he knows that have started providing the service charge for it.
They also have changed all their to-go boxes to fully recyclable materials. And they've introduced more organic and local ingredients to all their menu items.
On our visit to Lulu's recently, Hometown News photographer Randy Barber and I sat at the high, casual tables in the bar area, where we had a good view of the patio outside as well as the attractive bar area, which was decorated with beach themed items, including vintage surfboards, posters and black and white photos.
Since it was lunchtime, I ordered a Virgin Mary, though the extensive drinks list was tempting, and an order of quesadillas, which was listed on the appetizer menu but arrived in a quantity that would definitely feed two average diners. The menu lists them as mesquite chicken in a toasted tortilla, with black beans, mango pico de gallo, roasted red peppers, and cheddar-jack cheese with mango sriracha aioli and balsamic reduction." The aioli and balsamic reduction turned it into something sensational.
At the server's suggestion, Randy ordered one of their specialties, the fish tacos, which arrived on a plate that was generously filled, with appealing side dishes.
Randy, who'd never had fish tacos before, decided these were definitely worth ordering again.
The menu was full of items I'm planning to try, because I do plan to go back soon. That Tuscan seafood stew (fish, shrimp, scallops and mussels in a white wine, tomato and fennel broth with white beans, leeks, squash, artichoke hearts, roasted peppers, garlic and saffron with grilled ciabatta bread) is definitely on my list of must-tries, not to mention the salmon salad and a raft of other intriguingly different dishes.
In fact, I suspect it won't be long before the folks at LuLu's Oceanside Grill (even those who weren't being interviewed for the Hometown News that day) will know my name.
LuLu's also hosts a variety of charitable and other neighborhood events, including a 5K run for local charities and a monthly Yappy Hour, to benefit the Halifax Humane Society. Dogs are allowed on the outside terrace, and there is a doggy menu. There's also live music on weekends and some other occasions.
Lulu's Oceanside Grill, 30 S. Atlantic Ave., Ormond Beach, (386) 673-2641, lulusoceansidegrill.com.