It’s so exciting when a new restaurant opens in Lincoln, especially when it’s been dreamed up by someone local who has a passion for and knowledge of the concept they are creating. This is what Tramesha Cruse, along with her business partner Travis Russell, have done by opening Lila Mae’s Southern Kitchen & Lounge off of 30th and South St. This new southern kitchen has already gained a following in the Lincoln community by satisfying the craving for true southern dishes and offering that “down home” feeling that make guests feel warm with every visit and with each bite.
The Strictly Business team recently dined at Lila Mae’s, only four weeks after the restaurant officially opened—and we were very impressed with the quality of food. As a new restaurant, the best is still yet to come for Lila Mae’s. Tramesha and Travis have been working hard to perfect the menu and also emphasize the lounge side of their business by opening up the bar and putting together a fun cocktail selection.
At Lila Mae’s, you’ll find authentic Southern fare such as chicken and waffles, shrimp and grits, smothered pork chops, fried okra, collard greens, and more. During our dining experience, we definitely had a few favorites. From the Starters menu, the Fried Cauliflower, Fried Okra, and Lila Wings hit all the right spots. We all loved the seasoning and savoriness of the Fried Cauliflower, and that they weren’t overly fried or greasy. Same with the Fried Okra! Our art director and resident vegetarian, Derek, actually commented that this was probably the best friend okra he has ever had. In addition, our Editor Hannah was wowed by how good the Lila Wings were—and wings are rarely ever the highlight of her meals but these just excelled in her book (you can compare Lila Wings to your other favorite Lincoln wing joints at WingFest on August 6!). These sides, along with pretty much everything else on the menu we figured out, were enhanced by the homemade Lila Sauce. It is a mayo-based honey mustard with a twisted…so good!
Some may find the chicken and waffle combination a bit strange, but if you haven’t expanded your horizons that far yet, now is the time. Lila Mae’s Nashville Hot Chicken Strips served on a fluffy, toasted waffle (which can be subbed out for white or wheat bread) is absolutely mouthwatering. You can select from a range of heat levels on your chicken, all the way up to a Melt Your Face Off level (for the small price of just 50 cents more and possibly the use of your taste buds for a lingering while after). Shout out to Derek for being the only daring one in our group to give this sauce a try!
Another stand-out dish we all enjoyed was the Shrimp ‘n Grits. This plate just bursts with color and flavor. The consistency was perfect and it’s a nice, filling option. The Smothered Pork Chop was also delicious—tender enough to cut through with a fork! As good as all the entrees were, the sides carried their own weight as well. We recommend the Mac ‘n Cheese. Lila Mae’s rendition of this classic is a bit sweeter than most, which complements well with the spicier food you may order. Also the Cheesy Grits really made an impact. Strictly Business president, Paige, couldn’t get enough of them. They have amazing texture and a thick consistency. The Greens embody that soulful comfort food goodness as well, and the smoked turkey with earthy seasonings make it extra special.
Finally, the desserts. Mmmmmm. Lila Mae’s desserts are brought to you be Sweet Things by Marcy, who specializes in made-from-scratch Southern-style desserts. We were drooling over Mama’s Warm Apple Crisp and the Kentucky Butter Cake. Both were outstanding and had equally satisfying presentations. Lila Mae’s also offers Georgia Sweet Peach Cobbler, which we will definitely have to try at our next visit.
Lila Mae’s Southern Kitchen & Lounge, “where food, family, and friends are the sugar in their tea!” Make this your next dinner spot when you’re in the mood for some well-made comfort food.