By Brian Benefield
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House of Lu has been serving authentic family recipes for almost three decades; let that sink in for a moment. This gives them the distinct recognition of being one of the longest operating restaurants in Marietta Square. They’ve endured over the years for good reason. Cindy Lu and her parents were born in Saigon, Vietnam but are one-hundred percent Chinese, and thus the menu is a fusion of both cultures. Cindy’s mom, known to regulars as Mama Lu, opened the place in 1995 with a passion for serving food from their lineage. She contemplated selling the business in 2008, so Cindy moved back from the Northeast to preserve her family’s legacy.
In 2014 they completed an utterly stunning renovation, which local interior designer Cassandra Buckalew carefully thought out, and the construction was finished in a record time of only one month. Upon entering, the large, vividly colored murals on either side of the eatery immediately catch your attention. Each panoramic painting represents Vietnamese and Chinese culture by picturing a pretty lady eating noodles on one wall and a dragon lady on the other. The eye-catching circular bar in the center of the space exemplifies the Yin-Yang concept that everything in life comes full circle. Once you’re seated, the dining room is seductive and has a very upscale, elegant feel.
Placing your food order may prove difficult, but in the best way, as there are many made from scratch options. I would suggest starting your meal with the succulent hand-made steamed pork dumplings that are fork-tender or give the crispy veggie egg rolls a try. Once you take a bite, you realize the kitchen staff’s pride that creates these by hand daily. The Vietnamese Pho soup is next-level delicious and has a beef bone broth that is simmered for many hours and served with rice noodles and your choice of several proteins, some of which are rare eye round steak, chicken, or shrimp. This fragrant mixture is profoundly comforting and feels like a big, warm hug. If you are craving traditional Chinese cuisine, then order the ever-popular Mongolian Beef or if you want some spice in your life, then get the Hunan Chicken entree, and you’ll thank me later. The friendly servers are attentive and knowledgeable about the menu and can guide you in the right direction if you are indecisive.
Don’t sleep on their cocktail program, and if you’re lucky, you may get Johnny Tam, Cindy’s husband, as your mixologist. Serving up the classics such as a Cosmopolitan and a Martini, also having Mango and Lemon Drop Martinis for an exotic twist. Try something different, like a Don’t Hanoi Me Iced Tea made with Bacardi Dragon Berry Rum or a Ming Dynasty made with Absolut vodka, Blue Curacao, Soho Lychee Liqueur, and Cream De Violette. Johnny is a character who always has a witty joke or an amusing tale to share with the bar patrons as he concocts your beverage.
Food Network chef Alton Brown lives in Marietta and frequents House of Lu for its high-quality cuisine. Be sure to seek out his likeness on a signed magazine cover hanging on the back hallway wall. Adjacent to the main dining area is a large party room you can reserve for any type of celebration you can dream up. They will be busy with Chinese New Year just around the corner on February 1st, which is centered around removing the bad and the old and welcoming the new and the good things in life. I think we can all get behind this idea!
You may see other House of Lu restaurants around town, but know that this establishment isn’t affiliated with them and is the original and the only one with the Lu family recipes, which are made with a special ingredient…a dash of love.