Lola: Hit and Miss

One of the things I love is the bounty of Mexican food restaurants that we have in the city. We have our 24-hour drive throughs that all end in “etos” or “bertos.” We have taco carts and birria joints. We have places to eat deep, flavorful molé. We have cheap eats and higher-end. It’s a bounty of choices.

So where does Lola, located at 9th and 9th, fit in this spectrum? Well, it might be best for me to describe the place and you can judge for yourself.

The interior is befitting of the chic exterior of the restaurant. The first thing that draws you eye upon entering is the long open kitchen that greets you right as you cross the threshold. I am, and forever will be, a sucker for open kitchens. I don’t care how “2010” of me it is to say so. As a wannabe chef, it is infinitely intriguing to me to watch them work their magic.

The dining room is noisy with excitement, but not overly so. The steady thrumming of noise adds vibrancy and energy to the room, while not being too much.

The menu is focused, though not overly simple. You’ll find two to three appetizers, a few salads, and eight or so entrees. The restaurant offers some creative drink options, including some really nice aguas frescas.

We started our meal with the queso fundido, and warm, melty cheese dish featuring Heber Valley Cheese. The dish stuck to its roots with soft corn tortillas, but I would have liked to have been given the option to get some traditional tortilla chips, which would have made scooping the gooey cheese with bits of plantain a bit easier.

For our entrees, our party chose the toasted Japanese yam with “umami sour cream,” the tinga empanada, and asada burro, and the chicken milanesa.

The yam received rave reviews from our friend, who said the mix of flavors were really nice. The yam was so light that she remarked that it was like she was eating a cloud. The tinga dish was also well received, and the carne asada burro, despite needing a bit of salt and perhaps a tangy element like some pickled onions or jalapeños, was also tasty.

The milanesa was a dud, I’m sad to say. Milanesa is traditionally prepared by slicing beef or pounding a chicken breast very thin, then lightly breading and frying. After reading the description, I was excited to give it a try, but sadly was disappointed. The dish needs to be completely reworked, or just 86’d. The chicken was tough, dry, chewy, and flavorless. I found myself wishing for a crema or sauce of some sort to help add some complexity to this dish and help add a bit of moisture, but all I had was a lemon wedge. The best part of this dish were the quick-pickled tomatoes, which I believe were seasoned with Tajin. I would have loved to have had another handful of those to help add a little excitement to this otherwise bland dish.

We had great service from who I believe is one of the owners and “sometimes chef” (in his words). Water pitchers were brought to the table promptly, silverware was replaced efficiently, and the timing of the meal was spot-on.

Should you check out Lola? I definitely think so. The restaurant adds a fun vibe to an already fun 9th and 9th. I’d say the restaurant sits between Chile Tepin and Monarca from an “upscale” perspective. You won’t be getting refried beans and rice with every entree, but you also won’t be spending $40 per plate, either. I think Lola sits in a nice spot price-wise, with entrees ranging from around $18 to $25 dollars.

So, go check it out and let me know what you think. Just don’t get the milanesa.