Tuesday, September 22, 2009 at 10 a.m.
Looks can be deceiving...
Photos by Katharine Shilcutt
After a series of false starts, Lola finally opened over the weekend at the corner of 11th and Yale in the Heights. The fourth restaurant from Ken Bridge, who also runs both Pink's Pizza locations and Dragon Bowl, the long-awaited Lola diverges from his other two restaurants by offering breakfast -- and offering it all day long.
The menu at Lola also has a few offerings other than breakfast, although Bridge and company are only serving breakfast and an assortment of burgers and sandwiches until they get the "right half" of their bifurcated menu ready to go. The right half is an intriguing twist on comfort food, with items like smoked pear chicken with truffle mash, molasses-braised short rib with cheese grits and meatloaf cabernet made of both pork and beef. But for now, burgers and breakfast are the only items available, which is how we came to eat a Lola Burger yesterday for dinner.
The Lola Burger is an ambitious undertaking, with a dizzingly sweet and fluffy yeast roll for the bun, peppery arugula in the place of drab lettuce and a sharp slice of oozing cheddar covering the meat. But past these components, the burger begins to fall apart.
The fries, at least, are amazing
The poor 100 percent Angus patty was agonizingly well done, an immediate black mark in our burger book. That could be remedied next time by simply asking for the burger to be cooked medium (at the most), but who were we to know that the standard Lola Burger is a hardened lump of charred ground beef? The bacon was oddly charred, too -- oddly because it was burnt to a crisp on the outside and wilted in the middle. The bacon had been cooked on the patty, it seems.
The final issue with the burger is a debatable one. In fact, we argued this point at the table until both parties had reached one of two conclusions: One of us is a mustard snob
, and one of us simply has no tastebuds. In keeping with the casual atmosphere and the order-at-the-counter routine, the Lola burger doesn't come with any condiments on it, which means you're left to dress it up with packets of mayo and squeeze bottles filled with Heinz ketchup and French's yellow mustard. French's. Yellow. Mustard. The bane of our existence.
French's yellow mustard has a time and place: picnics, Whataburgers, the hot dog stand at IKEA, corndogs at the State Fair, and the meals of small children who don't know any better. Where it does not belong is on a burger that is so conscientious of its other ingredients -- the perfect roll, the snappy bite of the arugula and the tangy cheese, all the elements that could potentially come together to create an amazing upscale burger (and with an $11 pricetag, we'd call it upscale despite the casual atmosphere). As it was, putting the yellow mustard on the burger all but ruined it for us.
That's not to say that the Lola Burger is bad. In fact, ordered cooked to a normal temperature and dressed up with only some mayo -- is it too much to hope that they could make their own mayonnaise and mustard? it's not hard, especially when the burger is $11! -- instead of that foul yellow sauce, we imagine the Lola Burger would be quite good. And the French fries? Forget about it -- they're as good as it gets.
As for now, we'll just carry a bottle of Mady's Beer Mustard
with us when we dine at Lola and keep our fingers crossed that the place will get some decent condiments (and a liquor license!) in due time.