Lulu's Westside
Dining Reviews

Lulu’s Micro-Sizes New Westside Coffee Outpost

A local fixture reimagines a vintage Fotomat

Lulu Carpenter's has staked out a spot on the Westside, in the old Fotomat kiosk. PHOTO: JULES HOLDSWORTH

Trust the ever-ingenious Manthri Sinath to convert a vintage 8 x 4 foot Fotomat into a sleek, state-of-the-art coffee depot. Lulu’s Westside is a bright, shiny, six-week-old wraparound, drive-by godsend to those in need of breakfast, pastry, and caffeine.

Holding down the very tip of Almar & Mission (in the U-Save parking lot) the latest jewel in the Lulu’s tiara makes custom espresso drinks and serves up house-baked pastries to a host of grateful Westside neighbors—as well as tourists, bicycle clubs, yoga aficionados, telemarketers, students, and realtors.

After the success of Lulu’s Midtown, “we learned how valuable the drive-thru feature was,” Sinath explains, while whipping up a macchiato at the gleaming espresso machine that fills one-third of the little kiosk. At the opposite wall is a prep area with refrigerator, counter, microwave, and tiny toaster oven. Glass windows fold out to create an open-air ambiance as patrons—in cars, on bikes or on foot—watch their favorite coffee drink being finessed.

A true wraparound coffee kitchen, the newest Lulu’s is a tribute to streamlined space management. Explaining that the former photo dispensary turned coffee kiosk had to be refurbished and custom-appointed, Sinath offers me a delectable little Sous Vide Egg Bite ($4) to try, while he whips up coffee for a patron in a gigantic Hummer.

“I like doing interesting things,” the entrepreneur confesses. “And usually at a slight angle to the universe.”

The original metal building is still there, under the Lulu’s chartreuse graphics. “These things are like art projects,” he says. In fact, this ingenious little facility is practically a landmark restoration, and many patrons under the age of 40 will be fascinated to discover a relic from the photographic Time Before Instagram. The compact coffeehouse-in-a-box is truly a sparkling addition to the Westside.

The menu outside offers patrons a quick glimpse of possibilities, even a pumpkin spice latté for six bucks. A stack of fresh pastries offers further temptation. “We make them in-house at the downtown Lulu’s,” says Sinath. But I have to say that creamy egg bite was a revelation. The one I sampled was laced with cheddar, tarragon, and red pepper. There’s another version with bacon. Morning protein for $4! A brilliant advance on the monotonous “breakfast sandwich” concept. Ditto the house egg and Applewood-smoked bacon on a biscuit, with sriracha aioli. All your favorite coffee drinks—and more—are here in this small, well-designed emporium.

930 Almar, Santa Cruz. Open 5 a.m.-2 p.m. daily.

Fat Babies at HOM Korean Kitchen

Here’s the perfect excuse to try out some of the menu items at HOM, housed in the former Hoffman’s at 1102 Pacific Ave.: the energizing and sassy “Santa Cruz Fatbabies” exhibition of paintings by Ashley Yujin Roberts. Painted with loads of style, confidence, and bright colors on wood, the artworks feature plump and highly athletic babies with haircuts very reminiscent of those worn by a certain Korean head of state. These playful characters are shown jumping and surfing on stylized waves, among fish, chrysanthemums, leaping bunnies, and lots of other outrageously imaginative scenarios, many drawn from Korean folklore. If you don’t fall in love with these fatbabies by Ashley Yujin Roberts, AKA Ashley Yeo, you might not be breathing. Her show is up at HOM Korean Kitchen until Halloween.

Products of the Week:

At Shopper’s Corner, where we regularly pick up our weekly quota of Fernet Branca and salty crunchy bar mix, we’ve fallen for dried cherries—chewy and intense—as well as the organic Honeycrisp apples that have appeared lately in the produce array. Mmmmm.

Christina Waters was born in Santa Cruz and raised all over the world (thanks to an Air Force dad), with real-world training in painting, music, winetasting, trail running, organic gardening, and teaching. She has a PhD in Philosophy, teaches in the Arts at UCSC and sings with the UCSC Concert Choir. Look for her recent memoir “Inside the Flame” at bookstores everywhere.

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