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Lulu Birds Kitchen, located in Gloucester, Va's historic downtown Courthouse district, features an “eclectic American” menu and brings a comfortable “scene” atmosphere to the Middle Peninsula region.
The from-scratch kitchen, with every dish prepared fresh off of a hot line, features a beautifully balanced wine list and a dining space thoughtfully crafted to create a warm, comfortable, and fun feel.
Opening Lulu Birds is a dream come true for Isabelle and Keyvan Behnam, who for more than a decade have peered through the windows at 6553 Main Street, envisioning what a future restaurant could look like there and the food Keyvan could prepare from the back.
“We want it to feel like a scene,” Isabelle said. “Where people come in for a cocktail, stay through dinner. Where families come. First dates. Business meetings. It’s a place for all. It’s a kitchen. It’s going to be a place where you know you can have a good time, relax and see people that you know.”
Keyvan’s culinary background spans the globe. Born in Tehran, he traveled throughout England, Greece, France and Italy before settling in the U.S. He has apprenticed at every level of a kitchen and restaurant, starting as a dishwasher at a family owned restaurant.
He fell in love with food, though, and gradually began training in classic French culinary styles and playing with Asian ingredients.
Keyvan has cooked his way up to Virginia, starting out in the U.S. in South Florida for Prezzo’s, then Mark’s Place, where he was a sous chef and then general manager and chef de cuisine at Mark’s in Grove Isle.
Before moving with Isabelle and their two children to Mathews to open Lulu Birds, Keyvan was with China Grill Management, expanding on his culinary talents at Tuscan Steak in Miami as the sous chef there and then opening different China Grill Management concepts, of varied cuisines, in Miami, Los Angeles, London, New York and San Francisco.
Keyvan and Isabelle bring all of that experience and taste to Gloucester at Lulu Birds, which is founded on the tenants of family, community and flavor.
“We want to bring worldwide cuisine here to our backyard,” Isabelle said. “We’ve had the pleasure of going back on our own life experiences and picking from the things that made us the happiest and putting them into this new space, and hoping they make other people as happy as they’ve made us.”
Isabelle, who has helped craft the atmosphere of Lulu Birds while Keyvan perfected the menu, said “the wine list is one of those things that I have a visceral response to. We feature an amazing wine list that brings together wines that Keyvan and I have encountered throughout the nation from our restaurant experiences.”
Isabelle, too, has nationwide restaurant experience, working with China Grill Management – where she met Keyvan.
From the photographs on the wall, taken by Isabelle’s sister from all over the world, to the lights who were hung by Isabelle’s father, to the name of the restaurant (a nickname for Keyvan and Isabelle’s daughter), Lulu Birds has been a family affair—exactly the way Keyvan and Isabelle want it.
As for the menu, Isabelle said, “I’m calling it ‘eclectic American.’ Keyvan has worked with some amazing chefs over the years, and he’s really gathered all of his favorites through his travels, and peppered them throughout our menu.”
For the lover of Asian food, Italian food (which, Isabelle and Keyvan said, is really “truest” to their heart), or your Classic American cuisine, Lulu Birds offers an array of selections that have been judiciously chosen and tested.
“I predict one of the things that people will constantly come back for are the spicy beef dumplings,” Isabelle said. “They are the most delicious little bites. Or, the beer braised short ribs that melt in your mouth.”