Lola’s (#302, 6/30/14) – 64
I’m always a little intimidated going to a new restaurant. I’m not sure I really noticed until visiting Lola’s. It’s right around the corner from my house and everybody says it’s the best, but it took me a while to get there. Going with a group of four led to some of the trepidation. Will it be difficult to get a table for four since they don’t take reservations? Should I try to go early to get our name in or something? Wait, the paella takes how long to prepare? Is that a long time, I don’t actually know. BYOB is ok? Or no? Wait, what about attire? I think it’s casual, but when I peeked in, I saw nice white table cloths. Damn, pay attention to what people were wearing! As usual, it turned out there was no real reason for fear. Lola’s is a nice little place.
It is a little tight, maybe seating for about 30 people at around 10 tables. We were tucked into a corner near the kitchen – if the people at the table behind us wanted to get up, I think we all may have had to stand up (luckily they didn’t get up). You can look right into the kitchen, which is always kind of neat (well, usually, assuming you don’t see roaches and rats running around; and we didn’t). They have a lot of art by Simon, which isn’t bad. Despite being tight, it wasn’t that noisy. I will say that it was a Monday night and the place was mostly full, so good chance of a long wait on a prime evening. Oh, by the way, attire is fully casual – a guy and a girl even came in straight from the beach (no beaches within an hour or so of New Orleans, but they did it, guy in trunks and t-shirt, girl in bikini with some cover-up thing). For atmosphere, I’ll give it a 17 out of 30, nothing outstanding, nothing bad.
We found out the food is prepared using old traditional Spanish recipes. The original owner was from Spain and he used his mother’s recipes. After he passed away, the kids took over, still using the same recipes. My understanding was that it has the best paella in town; I’m not sure if that’s saying a lot because I have never seen paella anywhere else in town (of course, I haven’t looked for it either). We went for three different kinds – meat, seafood and combination (keep in mind, it takes 30 minutes to prepare paella, I’m still not sure if that’s a terribly long time to wait for dinner, seems like most good food at a legit restaurant would take close to that, but nice of them to warn you). Not knowing much about paella, I did read some of the Yelp reviews and some say there is supposed to be more of a crust of some sort on the bottom of the skillet, which supposedly tastes great. Reviewers commented that Lola’s didn’t have that and it’s more of a casserole than paella. Being my first time eating it, I have no idea; it tasted pretty good, but I am not sure what was so special about it, it tasted like a rice casserole with some meat. Decent enough, but not something I’d write home about (unless this gets read by somebody at home, then I will have sort of written home about it). We also had the calamari appetizer, which was very interesting. It was not tentacles or anything like that. It was basically calamari steak (as they described), grilled. Served with a good spicy cocktail-type sauce. While it looked strange, it still had the rubbery squid taste. It was okay, but…well, I probably like friend calamari better (imagine that, me, liking fried better; weird). So as far as food, I’ll give this a 30 out of 50.
The service was very good. I dropped in a little before six (there was one couple eating at the time) to see what they thought the wait might be (no idea) and if I could put my name in early (nope). So we went back at a little after 6:30 and there was only one table remaining for four. There was a six-top table in the window that would have been much better, but they wouldn’t give it up, which makes sense, even though nobody ever came to take it. Our waitress was very good – they have wine, or you can bring your own for a reasonable $5 corkage fee. We did the corkage fee and also had sangria (very good!). Waitress was very attentive and friendly, maybe the best part of the visit. Service is a 17 out of 20.
Final score is 64. I expected something a lot more based on how highly friends recommended it, but maybe paella isn’t the ideal dish for me; I still think it’s worth trying.