Article by Cindy Hadish
Photography by Justin Fox
Diners can find a taste of home at Lu’s Deli in the popular New Bohemia district of Cedar Rapids.
Laurie Konecny named the deli in honor of her grandmother, Lu, who died before Laurie was born, but passed along family recipes that are still in use today. Some of those recipes have made their way into the deli, such as the homemade cookies, as well as bread used in the subs and sandwiches, considered a favorite of many customers at Lu’s.
“It’s amazing how many compliments we get on the bread,” said Laurie’s husband, Scott Konecny. The couple co-owns the building with a business partner, while Laurie, who previously owned and operated a Cedar Rapids deli from 1993 to 2009, is the driving force behind Lu’s Deli, along with a tight crew of employees and other family members.
A photo of “Grandma Lu” hangs on the wall in the deli, along with a rolling pin she used and other memorabilia that connotes a vintage ambiance in the new building at 1010 Third St. SE.
The site is the former White Elephant consignment shop. Some parts of the historic building were incorporated into the new structure, including the store’s signature front doors and wood that a retired woodworker transformed into sturdy block tables that dot the dining room.
Lu’s Deli seats nearly 50 inside, along with a new patio prepared to open this spring, with bike racks and outdoor seating. The deli is envisioned as a spot for bicyclists to stop for a quick bite to eat during warm weather, as more people hear about Lu’s, which opened in November 2016.
Lu’s is open regularly Monday through Saturday, and on Sundays during special events in the New Bo district. Lu’s is also available for private parties, such as birthday parties and wedding showers.
“We want to be a part of the neighborhood,” Laurie said, noting that the deli attracts a mix of customers, including residents of the nearby Water Tower Place and Bottleworks Loft condominiums and workers from the Cherry Building, next door.
Lu’s salads are particularly popular on the weekends, including fresh lettuce salads, chef salads and spinach salads. A pasta sampler plate is available to try each of the homemade pastas and all menu items are reasonably priced, at under $7.
Our table tried the deli’s Vegetable Cheese Chowder, rich with chunks of carrots, broccoli and more, along with the potato soup – the deli’s most popular – which sports chunky potatoes, in a thick, creamy consistency. Lu’s chili offers a spicy kick, for a favorite mainstay on chilly days, as well as year-round.
The deli offers a changing daily special of soup and a sandwich. Subs and sandwiches range from a basic PB&J with peanut butter, grape jelly and a bag of chips to a more elaborate “3rd Street Italian Stack” with capacallo, prosciutto, ham, salami and provolone.
We tried Lu’s chicken salad on a croissant, with fresh chicken breast that was flavorful and not overwhelmed by the dressing, as well as the ham and Swiss combo on white bread that was light and fresh and included thinly sliced onions, tomatoes and lettuce.
Our table also sampled Lu’s Club on whole wheat bread, a combo that includes tender roast beef, turkey and other thinly sliced meats, along with the veggie toppings and provolone cheese. All of the sandwiches consisted of hearty portions that would satisfy most appetites for lunch. Vegetarian selections, such as the “cheese please” with a choice of any three cheeses, and a veggie sandwich also are available, as well as a variety of other meat subs.
Lu’s desserts include homemade cookies in a choice of peanut butter or chocolate chip, both with a chewy texture, and Lu’s carrot cake, a special recipe that results in a rich, moist dessert with cream cheese frosting. Brownie cupcakes also are available on the menu.
Lu’s Deli offers catering throughout the area, with the same menu items as the deli offers. Bag lunches for businesses are gaining a following, from small numbers to large luncheons, with delivery provided.
“Whether it’s 10 lunches or 200, we’ll get it ready and deliver it,” Scott said.
Lu’s prepares all of their homemade food onsite in their small kitchen. The second floor of the building is leased to a tech company. The back alley side of the building leads to 1,100-square-feet that is ready to be leased. The new space is available and would be perfect for retail or office.
1010 Third St. SE (319) 200-2221
Open: Mon-Fri 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and available for events on Sundays