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Grayslake cafe pays homage to family’s Cuban roots

Rick Felipez his sister Hayden Felipez-Taylor both Grayslake are co-owners Lulo's Cuban Cafe Grayslake. | Thomas Delany Jr.~Sun-Times Media

Rick Felipez and his sister, Hayden Felipez-Taylor, both of Grayslake, are co-owners of the Lulo's Cuban Cafe in Grayslake. | Thomas Delany Jr.~Sun-Times Media

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Lulo’s Cuban Cafe

970 Harris Road, Grayslake

(847) 543-6755

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Updated: January 10, 2013 8:01PM

GRAYSLAKE — When people think Cuba, first thoughts for many include cigars, mojitos and a spicy dance called the rumba.

But the Caribbean island south of Miami is also known for its hearty and comforting cuisine. And at Lulo’s Cuban Café, one would be amiss if they didn’t try the food here.

Opened less than a year ago by sister/brother team Hayden Felipez-Taylor and Rick Felipez of Gages Lake, the “casual and comfortable” place has been gaining steam in popularity, serving locals and visitors alike.

“A number of Cubans come here. We have a large Hispanic patronage, so we have to be doing something right,” said Hayden, who is the chef at the place.

The restaurant is a first for the two who opened it to “pay homage to our Cuban roots,” said Hayden. “My father was a great cook, and I learned a lot from him and my family.”

Many of the dishes at the place come from old family recipes.

The owners come from a family of six children who were born in the United States to a Cuban father named Raul and American mother, Georgia, from Woodstock. Their meeting was a romantic one.

According to the owners, Georgia went to Cuba for a vacation after graduating high school. There she met Raul who was an entertainer. Eventually they were married in Cuba and the couple moved to the U.S. in 1949.

A gallery in the restaurant showcases photos of the late Mr. and Mrs. Felipez, including some of their early years in Cuba.

Hayden is schooled in the art of French pastry-making and has worked in a number of restaurants. She holds both culinary and hospitality management degrees.

Her brother Rick has been owner of a construction company, along with another brother, Jon, for the past 25 years. The company, Felipez Bros. Residential Services in Grayslake, offers home remodeling.

While Cuban food is generally a fusion of Spanish, African and Caribbean flavors, Hayden said her brand of cooking leans more toward Castilian Spanish. Besides her father, she credits her grandparents who came from Cuba and relocated to Little Havana in Miami, with influencing her cooking.

“Everything’s homemade, very authentic, but some dishes may be changed up a bit,” she said. “It’s Cuban with a twist.”

The 2,400-square-foot restaurant is located across from the Libertyville Metra station, just west of Casey/Midlothian Road is open and airy, with large windows and seating for 42. Diners order at the counter and food is delivered to their table.

Lulo’s is known for its Cuban pressed sandwiches, croquetas (seasoned minced ham with onion, breaded and fried), flaky empanadas – though not always on the menu — and café Cubano (strong, sweetened Cuban coffee). But people also come in for the salads, homemade soups and warm herb bread, and full entrees including marinated steaks served up with sides like tostones (fried plaintains), yucca frita (the Latin version of French fries), and congri (red beans and rice).

There are everyday specials and bargain lunches here. From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday enjoy one of the sandwich varieties including Cuban, ham and cheese, pulled chicken or pork, fries and a 16 oz. fountain drink for $7.99.

If you are gluten-sensitive, this place offers a number of menu items that are gluten-free, including some desserts like the flan and polenta cake in different flavors.

Rick said the place is very “family friendly” and offers something for everyone.

The restaurant is closed Mondays.

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