Lola's is a friendly little Louisiana kitchen that resides in the old Holsum bread factory off the 15 and Charleston. Ian and I eagerly anticipated dining at this restaurant long before it opened since it is close to home and we were regulars at the restaurants of the two previous occupants, The Grill (miss those salads) and Bistro Divino (miss those pine nut cookies). I hope the third time is a charm for this location since Vegas is missing good Southern cuisine and because the owner, Lola (AKA Beth), is as sweet as the splendid sugary yams you may have the privilege of enjoying if she happens to have some on hand or if you specially order them.
I think this was our 8th or 9th time dining here since it opened last year, and although everything is pretty good, we tend to stick with our favorites. To start we had the craw puppies ($5.99), deep fried morsels of crawfish and cornmeal batter served with an addictively spicy aoli. These are a wonderful way to start the meal and a unique creation of this particular restaurant. For my entree I ordered the shrimp remoulade salad ($8.99), which is the simplest and healthiest dish on the menu, but perhaps also the most underrated. It consists of plenty of perfectly poached shrimp served on a bed of romaine lettuce, accompanied by tomatoes, quartered hard-boiled egg, and lemon wedges (be sure to squeeze them over the shrimp for the proper acidic component). The remoulade dressing made with whole grain mustard and mayonnaise really makes the dish stand out, and the salad is a refreshing antidote to the heavier items that pervade the menu. Ian got the bronzed catfish with grits ($14.99), that he always opts to have blackened rather than the aforementioned bronzed preparation. It is wonderful when you can have catfish that actually tastes good, and Lola's does an excellent job. Ian tends to douse it in the Louisiana Gold hot sauce (the real deal), but it is certainly delicious on its own. The plate hits on all cylinders, and the only change that could be made would be the addition of a bit more cheese in the grits to add some saltiness.
Even though I didn't get it this time, I would also suggest the rich and flavorful gumbo, properly prepared with a dark roux and plenty of sausage and seafood. It's a cup of Southern goodness, though you might want to ask for it extra hot since sometimes is doesn't come out the way I personally prefer which is best described as "burn the roof of your mouth off hot." The baked oyster appetizer is another hit, and please don't forget to ask about those caramelized and gooey yams to round out the meal. The Purple Haze Abita beer ($4.25) is also a must to complete the experience. On the downside, I haven't been too impressed with the po-boys as they are heavy on the bread and the steak wasn't too well-received by Ian's best friend and fellow chef Jason. Boiled crawfish are now temporarily offered on the menu, however, which I anticipate will be terrific and look forward to trying next time so I can compare them to Hot n' Juicy.
It is evident from your first visit that Lola's serves up authentic Louisiana fare prepared with love and a genuine desire to make bellies happy. Although the food is not as refined as that of the late Commander's Palace where Ian used to work, you can certainly imagine it coming out of your grandmother's fragrant kitchen, should she happen to be from New Orleans. The yummy food, homey atmosphere of the restaurant, and Beth's smiling face keep us coming back time and again, and I hope we don't see any more restaurants in this space.
Tonight's Dish Ratings:
Bronzed (but in this case blackened) Catfish and Grits: 8.5
Shrimp Remoulade Salad: 7.5
Special Yams (not ordered tonight but worth rating): 9
Restaurant Rating: 7.5
Would we go back?: Yes Ma'am