Monday, January 26, 2015

Luella's Southern Kitchen to Bring Down Home Good Eating to Chicago's Lincoln Square this February


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Darnell Reed 2 330 pixels w border.jpgChicago's Lincoln Square, a popular and charming business and residential district filled with intriguing food and shopping, will soon be the proud home of an exciting new Southern regional restaurant, Luella's Southern Kitchen (4609 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-961-8196) which will open on February 3, 2015. Luella's will be a delight for Chicago's many fans of Southern cuisine, who now won't have to hop on an airplane to enjoy this iconic and varied American style of cooking.
 
Luella's Southern Kitchen is the brainchild of chef/owner and Chicago native Darnell Reed who has built an impeccable culinary resume for the past 18 years. A graduate of Washburne Culinary Institute in Chicago, Reed began his professional career in 1997 at the Palmer House Hilton where he served as Restaurant Chef at the French Quarter and the Big Downtown. In 2005, he was promoted to Executive Sous Chef at the Embassy Suites Chicago Lakefront where he handled banquet functions for up to 700 people.

In April 2007, Reed was promoted to the dual Executive Chef position at the Hilton of Oakbrook and Hilton Garden Inn of Oakbrook. In May of 2010, he accepted the Executive Sous Chef position at the Conrad Chicago Hotel and was promoted to Executive Chef in 2011.
 
Luella's Southern Kitchen is named after Reed's great-grandmother, Luella, whose delicious Southern recipes inspired him to pursue his passion for cooking as a career. Having earned his culinary stripes, he is ready to join the ranks of many of Chicago's excellent chefs who march to their own entrepreneurial rhythm.
The restaurant is going to be casual and friendly, with a contemporary yet rustic feel and an emphasis on high quality dishes representing the many variations of regional Southern cuisine. The menu includes both traditional and creative interpretations of Southern favorites from Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and the Carolinas

"We're inviting our guests to enjoy a casual and comfortable meal with no pretense, just great food and service," said Reed. "They'll have a great time simply enjoying and learning about this amazing food. Everything will be freshly prepared using fine locally sourced ingredients. We'll be serving lunch and dinner during the weekdays plus an amazing weekend brunch on Saturday and Sundays. Our menu specials will give people a chance to try many different things from several states."

Luella's menu will take a "mix and match" approach, with a variety of appetizers, small plates, sandwiches, salads, large plates, sides and desserts that can be combined in a myriad of ways to create a simple meal or a hearty Southern feast. Guests will order at the counter and the food will be brought to their table. The restaurant will open as a BYOB with no corkage fee.

Among the mouthwatering soup creations are She Crab Soup, with black and red tobiko, brioche and sherry reduction ($8); and Chicken Gumbo, dark stock with Creole seasoning, Andouille sausage, rice and scallions ($7).

Kale Ambrosia 330 pixels w border.jpgSalads include the Kale Ambrosia, with kale, citrus segments, pineapple, goat cheese, candied pecans, toasted coconut, basil and lime vinaigrette ($11); and the Quinoa Salad, with arugula, grilled peaches, sunflower seed vinaigrette and sweet potato crumble ($11).

Traditional, ever-popular choices will include Forever Braised Short Rib Mac and Cheese, with Mornay auce, thyme, and butter bread crumbs ($11); Southern Flatbread with smoked chicken, Andouille sausage, fried pickles, pimento cheese and Carolina
BBQ ($10); Bourbon Chicken and Waffles with
Chicken and Waffles 330 pixels w border.jpggolden crispy chicken, Liege waffle and bourbon maple syrup ($12); and Shrimp and Grits, New Orleans BBQ shrimp served with cream cheese grits ($15).

Sandwich selections feature a Shrimp Po' boy, with French bread, remoulade and Creole seasoned fries ($12); Crispy Catfish Tacos with corn tortillas, cayenne remoulade, vinegar slaw ($10); and a Fried Green Tomato BLT with Nueske's bacon, fried green tomato and arugula ($11).

Catfish Tacos 330 pixels w border.jpgLuella's signature entrée will be the Low Country Shrimp and Crab Boil, with Kielbasa and Andouille sausage, corn, boiled potatoes and toasted baguette ($21).
 
Shrimp and Crab Boil 330 pixels w border.jpg
The side dishes add another scrumptious taste of Southern hospitality to the meal. Choices include Lemon and Cajun Seasoned Fries ($4); Buttermilk Biscuits with Sorghum Drizzle ($5); Glazed Sweet Potatoes with sorghum, cumin and chili ancho ($6); and Roasted and Chilled Beets with cream cheese smear, Creole spiced pistachios, balsamic reduction and extra virgin olive oil ($6).

Beignets 330 pixels w border.jpgLovers of Southern desserts certainly won't be disappointed. Luella's will serve fresh homemade Beignets ($5), and an all-time Mississippi favorite: Mississippi Mud Pie, a dark chocolate and pecan pie with chocolate crust and praline ice cream ($6).

Luella's Southern Brunch
 
Some of the most appealing aspects of Southern cuisine are the delicious breakfast recipes, and Luella's will bring them to Chicagoans on Saturday and Sunday with a Southern Brunch, served from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The menu is as tasty as it sounds and includes a variety of sweet and savory selections. On the sweeter side are the Bananas Foster Pancakes, buttermilk pancakes with Bananas Foster topping ($10), and Chicory Coffee French Toast with coffee crème brulee batter, served with fresh berries ($11).

Savory brunch items include Southern Benedict, braised Slagel Farms pork, poached farm eggs, crystal hollandaise and buttermilk biscuit ($11); Andouille Sausage Quiche, Andouille sausage quiche, Romano cheese, caramelized leeks, and farm eggs ($12); Buttermilk Fried Chicken, Slagel Farms chicken and smoked gravy ($12); and Shrimp and Grits, New Orleans BBQ shrimp, dandelion greens and cream cheese grits ($22). Burger lovers will enjoy Chef Darnell's Southern take: the Pimento Cheeseburger, Slagel Farms burger, pimento cheese, egg sunny up, and brioche bun, served with Creole seasoned fries ($11). 
 
Brunch salads are also featured on the regular lunch and dinner menu: Kale Ambrosia, citrus segments, pineapple, goat cheese, candied pecans, toasted coconut, basil and lime vinaigrette ($11); and the Quinoa Salad with arugula, dried cranberries, sunflower seed vinaigrette and sweet potato crumble ($11).

The dessert selection during brunch includes one item not on the regular lunch and dinner menu, the Milk Chocolate Bread Pudding with strawberry jam Anglaise and praline ice cream ($5).  
About Luella's Southern Kitchen
Luella's Southern Kitchen, located at 4609 N. Lincoln Ave. in Chicago's Lincoln Square, is a casual independent restaurant owned by Chef Darnell Reed. The restaurant will open February 3, 2015. Luella's serves lunch and dinner Tuesday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Weekend brunch is served from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday; dinner is served until 10 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. All major cards are accepted. Luella's is a BYOB establishment; no corkage fee is charged. Takeout and  delivery service are available. For more information, call the restaurant at (773) 961-8196 or visit the website at www.luellassouthernkitchen.com
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Chef/Owner Darnell Reed
 
As with many exceptional chefs, Darnell Reed's passion for food and cooking began at a very young age. Born and raised in Chicago, his first memories of food include the wondrous dishes prepared by his great-grandmother, Luella, for whom the restaurant is named. She was passionate about her Southern family recipes and Darnell lovingly remembers the delicious aroma of her kitchen as she prepared these unequalled creations.
 
Darnell Reed 330 pixels w border.jpg"My great-grandmother showed me how food could bring people together," he says. Darnell also remembers, as a child, being caught up in the entertaining world of TV chef Justin Wilson. "My mom told me she knew I would be a chef someday, because while other kids were outside playing I was watching his show," he recalls."When I was a kid, I didn't fully grasp the concept that he was a Southern chef. I just knew that he entertained me."  
 
Darnell took his love of cooking seriously and after high school he completed his studies at Chicago's Washburne Culinary Institute. He began his professional career in 1997 at the Palmer House Hilton where he served as Restaurant Chef at the French Quarter and the Big Downtown. In 2005, he was promoted to Executive Sous Chef at the Embassy Suites Chicago Lakefront where he handled banquet functions for up to 700 people. In April 2007, Reed was promoted to the dual Executive Chef position at the Hilton of Oakbrook and Hilton Garden Inn of Oakbrook. In May of 2010, he accepted the Executive Sous Chef position at the Conrad Chicago Hotel and was promoted to Executive Chef in 2011. He earned a Manager of the Year award in 2005 and a Leadership Award in 2008.    
 
His years in the Hilton organization were very rewarding, and he considers his two supervisors there, Daniel Lagarde and Jason Milanese, to be important mentors. "Lagarde taught me to be disciplined and to value teamwork and Milanese showed me that you could be disciplined and still have fun at work," he says. "I always dreamed of starting my own Southern restaurant, and the skills and attitudes they instilled in me will definitely be foremost in my mind as I launch Luella's Southern Kitchen."   
 
Even though Darnell is a well-rounded chef, his heart always takes him back to Southern cuisine. "My favorite dish to prepare is Seafood Gumbo and my favorite ingredient to use is sweet potatoes. I just love their versatility and how sexy they look on a plate. I've used them in pies, as a side item, in breads, cakes, fries, croutons, biscuits and cobblers. I also love to prepare Shrimp and Grits. My tip for preparing them is be sure to remove them from the pan before the sauce is done. You do not want dry, overcooked shrimp."    
 
Darnell's favorite dish of all time is the Bread Pudding Soufflé at the famed Commander's Palace restaurant in New Orleans. "I can taste it just thinking about it. It is so airy, yes airy, which is not what you think when you think of bread pudding.The sweetness is on point and the Whiskey Crème Anglaise puts it over the top. I order this every time I'm in New Orleans." 
 
Luella's Southern Kitchen will be a small, intimate restaurant, and this is in keeping with Darnell's belief that building relationships with guests is paramount. "I like to get to know my guests and get their feedback. I'm more than happy to adapt my menus to meet my guests' needs, and I'm flattered if one of my guests asks for a dish that was featured on a previous menu. My biggest pleasure is when a guest tells me that something I've prepared reminds them of back home."  
 
As a disciplined chef and now also a restaurateur, Darnell strongly believes his team should strictly follow recipes, because consistency is very important. He also sets high standards for his service team. "I work hard to ensure that my servers and managers really know our food," he says. "Guests should feel that their servers are knowledgeable, because it builds trust and helps the server to give the guests what they want." 
 
As he now moves forward with his first restaurant, he is inspired by his favorite celebrity chef, Bobby Flay. "I want my kitchen to be as talented as any of Bobby Flay's kitchens. I have enjoyed his food at Bolo in NYC and Mesa Grill at Cesar's Palace Las Vegas numerous times. I really enjoy the flavors of his cuisine and can tell that he has fun in the kitchen just from reading his menus."
 
This is the beginning of an exciting chapter in Darnell's life. In addition to the launch of Luella's Southern Kitchen, he is soon to be married to his fiancé, Jocelyn, and they are expecting a new baby. Together with her two children from a previous marriage, he has a delightful built-in family. "I cherish every moment of every day. You do not get one second back to relive the great times again." 
 
 
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