“There’s something for everyone,” Juls Executive Chef Phil Norsetter said.
And when you read over the menu you realize there really is something there that appeals to every palate. Burgers, salads, wok creations, favorites from Julian’s, sushi and New American comfort food — there is even a separate caf￩ where diners can quickly order a sandwich, custom salad, breakfast or smoothie.
Juls Restaurant, Lounge & Caf￩, at 7212 Old Jacksonville Highway, was opened in December by the Schulz family who previously owned Julian’s in the Time Square Shopping Center.
While Juls has some of the same design elements as Julian’s, the new multidimensional facility and its food takes it to the next level.
“We had all the old Julian’s recipes, but we wanted to do something that was a bit broader than that menu. We wanted to do new American but make it a nicer quality,” owner Jay Schulz said.
“Not necessarily high end, but better quality and fresher ingredients,” Schulz said. “We try to stay healthy but we also want the food to have good flavor. We also wanted to do sushi, which was something we didn’t have at Julian’s.”
To completely develop the food part of the Jul’s concept, Schulz hired Norsetter as executive chef and Sous Chef Adam Lopez. Both have been working on the menus since last summer and spent a great deal of time sourcing ingredients and testing recipes.
“I grew up in southern Wisconsin,” Norsetter said. “My family owned a restaurant, so there was always something for me to do and we were cooking together.”
The family also did what they could to live off the land through hunting, raising their own ducks and chickens and maintaining a large vegetable garden.
He continued working in the culinary industry and has cooked in many types of restaurants, including French, Creole, Swiss and American — from bar food to fine dining.
In 2006, he moved to Las Vegas to attend Le Cordon Bleu. Although he had worked in the restaurant industry for years, he was interested in refining his technique with the French influence the curriculum offers.
While in Las Vegas, he spent six years with Station Casinos and when he left for Tyler was executive chef for two of their steakhouses.
He and his wife were ready to make a change and looking for a location that was more family-oriented.
“I really liked the concept. The Schulz family are very focused on fresh ingredients, and that it was a contemporary atmosphere,” Norsetter said. “They’re a very nice family to work for. They really care about their employees and the community.”
He saw things in Tyler that reminded him of his hometown in Wisconsin through the local food purveyors, fresh local produce and farmers markets.
The Asian fusion menu and the wok cooking also gave him the opportunity to develop new skills and be creative with the Juls concept.
“There are so many different methods to get to one point,” Norsetter said. “I try to cook seasonal and as fresh and natural as possible; also organic, when it is feasible for cost.”
The Schulz family also found a sous chef to collaborate with Norsetter on the menu who shared the same ideals and interest in fresh, local ingredients.
Lopez grew up in Rockwall and developed his love for food from his father who worked in many fine-dining restaurants in Dallas. He studied pharmacy and nursing but found he was more interested in cooking, so he attended culinary school in Dallas and went on to open one of the first gastropubs in downtown and also Lark on the Park, which focused on fine dining and craft cocktails.
“I enjoy taking basic dishes and twisting it around and making it your own,” Lopez said.
“And there’s a lot of love and passion behind the food. It’s been fun, but a long journey to get to this point,” Norsetter added.
QUALITY IS PARAMOUNT
For both chefs, quality ingredients are important.
“Even down to the pepper, it’s important to us. The quality of the ingredients we are using and the consistency of the product that we purchase and put out on the plate,” Norsetter said.
Juls can be a spot for a date or a quick lunch.
“The community has the sense that we are destination dining where you come here for a special occasion, but from our caf￩ to our restaurant, we are hitting all different price points from $9 up to $38. So you can come in for something casual — a sandwich, salad or burger — or you can come in for that date night or special occasion and offer something nice and with different seating on the patio, mezzanine or dining room,” he said.
The restaurant also offers traditional ingredients in new ways.
“We are trying to keep the food approachable and not misunderstood. When you have a place like this drop into Tyler and people are not quite sure what they are getting, it’s important to have things they are comfortable with,” Norsetter said. “Like shrimp and grits, everyone knows shrimp and grits but it’s just that lighter version. Or scallops and risotto, filet with all-natural beef, a demi sauce, Brussels sprouts and roasted potatoes. There’s your meat and potatoes but with a higher quality protein and handmade veal stock and demi sauce.”
But some of the old Julian’s dishes are on the new menu.
“We’ve also brought back some of the Julian’s favorite because that is what the public wanted. But we’ve added some other fun things like a Kimchi fried rice, and Adam makes his own Kimchi. We’ve put a lot of our own touches on the food,” Norsetter said. “You’re getting everything hand-crafted. We don’t use anything premade. We don’t even have a walk-in freezer.”
“We try to stay away from anything manufactured,” Lopez added.
“Even the cheeses we buy. We try to buy local cheeses or I am partial to Wisconsin cheeses. The Brie that we buy is Brazos Valley from Waco,” Norsetter said. “Whatever we can get in the local market is great for us.”
The restaurant gets its honey from a beekeeper in Arp, grits from a mill in Waco and is also serving True Vine beer, Kiepersol wine and Porch Culture coffee.
“We are really trying to support the local guys. Whether it’s wine, beer, coffee, food — we want to carry all of their products,” Schulz said.
Juls also will play host to the Rose City Farmers Market (formerly The Fair Market) starting in May. The market will be held every Tuesday and Saturday.
“We want to have a lot of community involvement.” Schulz said.
Seeing how East Texas could provide fresh, local products and support the Juls concept is what drew the chefs to Tyler and created a desire to make it their home.
“That’s what I saw in this project. Being able to create new food experiences for people,” Norsetter said. “And we’re bringing high quality fresh food at every price point to everyone.”
“We are the kind of place people can come at any time, not just for a special occasions because our appetizers they start at $5 and there’s a whole range of prices throughout the menu,” Schulz said.