LOGAN SQUARE — Lula Café has been hosting a lot of benefit dinners lately, and it's all part of owner and chef Jason Hammel's plan to be an even better neighbor.
"I'm trying to really develop what the notion of a neighborhood restaurant is, since we're going into our 16th year now," he said.
Since opening in 1999, the popular restaurant has featured new dishes as part of special three-course dinner weekly for its Monday Night Farm Dinner.
But in recent months, Hammel has been reaching out to other chefs and restaurants to broaden food horizons, but also to do some good.
"We've been doing it a long time, not that I'm burned out on it, but I thought it'd be a cool way of expanding — to invite other chefs to the Monday night dinners then to use that as a way to give back to the community," he said.
This coming Monday's dinner will actually benefit an Iowa charity, a group home in Sac City, Iowa, because it's near the farm where the Mangalitsa pigs are raised by the people from Farm Butcher Table.
Recent dinners, though, have benefited organizations closer to home.
A recent joint event with Honey Butter Fried Chicken benefited St. Luke's of Logan Square's Community Dinners program, and last week's second annual Chef's Dinner benefited Comfort Station Logan Square.
Monday's dinner will feature Rob Levitt from Butcher and Larder, Cosmo Goss of Publican Quality Meats, Mark Steuer of Carriage House and Hammel.
Each chef will contribute his own preparation of meat from the Mangalitsa pig, a wooly hog commonly bred in Hungary and known for its fat, and thus its ability to soak up flavors in the cooking — or curing — process.
"It's the fat," Hammel said. "The fat is what is special."
The Mangalitsa-centered menu will feature tesa (cured belly meat) and tuna, blood sausage, vegetables cooked in lard, crispy confit pork and more.
The $95 dinner includes appetizers, a cocktail hour and a caramel apple vol-au-vent with toasted oat ice cream for dessert.
Reservations are available by phone only at 773-489-9554.
But for those who can't make Monday's dinner there will likely be more chances to enjoy good food for a cause.
"We're going to do a lot more," Hammel said. "It's definitely part of my vision for what a neighborhood restaurant could be."