1933 6
1933 6

Trailer Vittles – Pt. 4 – Lulu B’s, A Tale of Requited Love

This is a simple story. This is a story of love requited, a love of a culture, and a willingness to share it with others. This requited love eventually begets a child. Lulu B’s is its name. Famished denizens of South Austin, who find themselves in a perpetual search for the unexpected, are once again, the beneficiaries of such a profound love, and Magnus is here to tell you the story…

Laura Bayer was born unto Thao, her Vietnamese mother. Raised in Southern California amidst a very prevalent Asian population, Laura was indoctrinated at an early age into the finer aspects of Vietnamese cooking. It didn’t hurt that, in Laura’s words, “Thao is a great cook, and when she wasn’t in the kitchen, she’d take me to all these great local mom and pop joints. All those incredible taste sensations over the years left a lasting impression.”
But, ultimately, it was a visit to the mother country itself that cinched the deal. Whilst visiting there with Thao, Laura fell in love with the familial custom of selling culinary wares from the front stoops of their respective houses; one family specializing in fruit smoothies, another grilled pork dishes, for instance. During this trip and others, Laura was baptized in the culture, and the tastes, sights, and smells of rural Vietnam grew very dear to her heart. Her dye was cast…
Nine years ago, on a whim, Laura moved to Austin and in no time at all found herself longing for foods of her homeland that had captured her heart, as well as her taste buds, specifically authentic Vietnamese sandwiches. So -the only reasonable alternative at the time- she began to host parties where she’d serve them, as much for herself as anything.
Along the way, Laura began experimenting with recipes, gauging the partygoer’s reactions, taking notes, basically practicing her own brand of market research. Not laying claim to any formal business training, Laura did what came naturally, following intuition’s lead, the winds of fate filling her sails. To hear her tell it, these gatherings were just fun parties, but slowly, ever so slowly, unbeknownst to her then, a plan was hatching.
At some point, Laura suffered what can only be described as a life-altering epiphany, realizing, as she did, there was a serious void of Vietnamese sandwiches in South Austin. “It was then”, she said, “all the pieces of life’s puzzle began to take a rather interesting shape.”
Due to her lack of a business degree, nor having any prior restaurant experience -short of waitressing- Laura knew securing a business loan would be next to impossible, and so began the slow ascent up her personal mountain.
Even though Thao initially questioned her daughter’s dream, Laura was determined, knowing in her gut she was onto something and nothing was going to stand in her way. Already teaching, she added summer school for extra income, took out some credit cards, and lucky for her, her beau had some friends at Libertad Bank, who eventually proved to be very helpful.
Next, Laura went directly to the source, querying friends already in the big show for business advice, most notably Fernando at Taco Express and David Ansel, The Soup Peddler himself.
Here’s what David had to say about his young upstart… “It takes a massive amount of gumption to put your money where your mouth is, especially in this business. Starting from scratch, really bootstrapping like she has, requires a delicate balance of self-confidence and self-delusion, which she displayed during our conversations. She’s sharp and sweet, which is also a great combo… think of a twist on the South Austin archetype, Maria Corbalan. To give you a glimpse into Laura’s psyche, let me tell you about her encounter with taggers. This trailer that she laid down her life savings on got tagged… she got it repainted… tagged again. She wrote a note and left it on the trailer saying, “I’ve worked hard my entire life for this… please don’t tag this trailer anymore.” And they didn’t. …Laura could be said to be in possession of a huge brass set.”
As it turned out the City of Austin offered small business seminars, too, which Laura mentioned also proved beneficial. An avid devotee of the book, “Starting Your Own Business”, Laura laughed and said, “ In those days I would kayak out to the middle of Town Lake with this book and tell everyone I was in my office. It was just me, the sun, the water, and my big dreams.”
Pooling all these resources, finding a perfect location on South Lamar under a sprawling oak tree, Laura unveiled her labor of love, Lulu B’s, on Jan. 4, 2008.
The vittles…
One word stands out in my mind when pondering all I’ve partaken at Laura’s creation, and that word is FRESH! After a meal at Lulu B’s my mouth sparkles from the exotic combinations of herbs found in these dishes, my body maximizing the clean, healthy ingredients.
The choices are limited at Lulu B’s, and this is GOOD.
First, they offer Summer Rolls, two to an order, either pork, tofu, shrimp, or avocado. Again, FRESH, delightful, with both a peanut sauce and nuoc cham (a savory fish sauce) for dipping, and only $3! I made two shrimp rolls disappear in short order, my taste buds filled with happy happy joy joy.
Then there are the traditional Vietnamese sandwiches, the house specialty. First off, as any great sandwich lover knows, the bread is uber important, and in the delightful French baguette of her choosing, Laura has chosen wisely; the bread soft, not too thick, not too thin either, in perfect balance with the rest of the ingredients. All their meats are marinated overnight. They offer either grilled, lemongrass, or Chinese barbecued chicken and pork. For vegetarians, tofu and avocado are available. Each sandwich is garnished with carrots, cucumber, cilantro, dakon, and chili. I got acquainted with the Chinese barbecue pork, extra meat a buck more -which I recommend, by the way- and it really hit the spot! Base price? $4.
Also available are vermicelli bowls, which come with any of the meats mentioned above, plus tofu for the vegetarians, natch. These bowls are nothing if not generous; loads of vermicelli noodles, mint, cilantro, lettuce, carrots and cucumbers, topped with peanuts and nuoc cham, and for the complete ride, you must drizzle with the infamous Sriracha hot chili sauce. $5.75… a bargain!
They also offer a variety of delicious fruit smoothies, either hot or iced Vietnamese coffee, green or black tea, and a variety of sodas and chilled teas and waters, too.
You can either take-out, or eat-in under the majestic oak whose limbs literally drip with colored lanterns. And for the eco conscious, Lulu’s B’s does the right thing, offering compostable, recyclable containers only, and they encourage all their customers to bring their own bags for transport home. For to-go orders, call (512) 921-4828
For now, cash is king at Lulu B’s.
Hours of operation are 11:30 to 6:00PM, Tuesday thru Friday, and 11:30 to 6:30 PM Saturday.
In the not too distant future, look for a delivery service manned by snappy young drivers on scooters, as well.
Laura’s aim, along with her mother, Thao, and her partner/sister, Christina, is for happy faces, happy tummies, and we should all be supportive of such harmonious ideals!
If you get a hankering for a dose of requited love, Vietnamese style, head on over to the corner of South Lamar and Oltorf (in between Office Depot and Austin Quality Tire) and saddle up to Lulu B’s trailer where you’ll be greeted with a smile. You’ll be glad you did.
Tell ‘em Magnus sent you.

* Laura would like to extend a special thank you to George Reiff.

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6 comments

  1. Phu

    Magnificent article for a magnificent place.

  2. Anthony

    I used to have to drive far to get my hands on a delicious Vietnamese sandwich, but now they are just around the corner! Thank you Lulu B’s!

  3. Jackie

    Even though we don’t have Laura’s lively spirit at school the trade off is great to have place to get an Awesome sandwich!

  4. 5k

    Laura takes great care of her employees. Coolest boss ever, let it be known.

    Viva Lulu B’s!

  5. Kelsi

    I really enjoyed the chicken with lemongrass baguette…it has just enough spice and is oh so healthy too! Thanks Laura 🙂