Betty Cowley has spent her life in the restaurant business, having worked everywhere as well as owning a café in Iuka, MS. In 2007, Miss Betty opened LuLu’s Place, named in honor of her mother, and the place became a local legend, something that is tough to do as a “meat and three.” Health issues forced her to retire, sell, and then the future of the building became uncertain.
Almost every good success story has a love story in there somewhere, and LuLu’s is no exception. Before Mrs. Cowley had to sell, Elaina (then Berryhill) was part of the wait staff that loved Betty, loved LuLu’s, worked hard, and found herself falling in love with a customer named Phillip Broadway. They got married in Betty’s back yard and the reception was held at LuLu’s. When Betty had to close, everyone was heartbroken, and at the time there was no way for the employees to purchase the place.
Phillip took a huge risk and invested a good portion of his retirement in LuLu’s, and now he has two careers: hanging drywall Monday thru Friday, and learning the restaurant business Thursday thru Sunday. “I had no idea how stressful it could be, and I am more thankful for all the people who have waited on me,” he said. But, he added that he loves people and loves learning the business.
For her part, Elaina is a natural born restaurateur, and is thrilled to be “restoring the legend.” Like Phillip, she loves the business and the people, and is “so glad that the old customers are back.” Some of the former employees have returned, too, and after smoothing out some of the bugs that are inevitable with any start up, the Broadways, Miss Betty, and the loyal customers are all saying “Welcome Home” to each other. Miss Betty comes in to work as she can, and has been instrumental in teaching the folks in the kitchen “just how it’s done.” She has been carefully walking them through the recipes, from the Betty Scrambler to LuLu’s legendary pies.
Everyone has kept a sense of humor as they have undergone the re-opening, and Elaina says with a chuckle, “We provide free entertainment just by being ourselves.” As is the case with any successful diner, the staff and customers become like family, and I had the chance to chat with Scott the cook as he told me about his learning curve, and Phillip as he gets the hang of waiting tables. Having spent years in the hospitality business myself, I groaned and laughed with them.
One thing Elaina wanted readers of Athens Now to understand is that “LuLu’s Place is a diner, not a fast food place. The food is cooked with love, and made to order.” There are several signature pieces that put LuLu’s on the map in the first place, and they are all back as part of the daily fare. First, there is the LuLu Burger. Elaina says it’s like a “homemade Big Mac.” The meat is all beef, and there are two patties and three buns. Cheese comes with it, along with mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, lettuce, pickle, onion, and tomato. The LuLu Burger is served with fries.
The Betty’s Scrambler is delicious, I can say from experience, and it has hash browns, eggs, and a choice of up to three additional items like cheese, onions, etc, as well as your choice of biscuit or toast, and unending coffee.
“We have the best chicken and dressing anywhere,” Elaina told me, and during the winter their taco soup and chili have been in high demand. The soups come with a grilled cheese sandwich. On Thursday nights they serve spaghetti from 4-8, and the customers keep coming back for it.
While I was there, the coconut pie had just come out of the oven, and the chocolate pie was due to be made next. LuLu’s also makes homemade peach and apple fried pies. During the holidays, LuLu’s sold a lot of dessert, and is building up their event business.
“We’ll design a specific menu for parties,” Elaina said, and they will also open for special events. They have a party room in the back, and when we chatted they had just had a birthday party there. “It was fun,” said Elaina.
The Broadways want the customers to get the best possible fresh produce, and make the drive to the Amish community in Etheridge, TN to get veggies in season. “We love the drive,” they said, and it is obvious that they love the drive, their customers, their business, and each other. Come see for yourself at LuLu’s Place, and learn a new meaning for “Welcome Home.”
22728 Pepper Rd. Athens, AL, 35613
Hours: Thu-Sat, 7am-8pm, Sun 7-3
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner