When you hear consistently good things about a restaurant, you are tempted to go and check it out for yourself. This was the case for me for Lola's Lounge in old downtown Elk Grove. Word of mouth had been good and this was the night before BAR's not so enthusiastic review in the Bee came out. I'm glad I ate there before I had read his review.
I've never been in the heart of old town Elk Grove. Like many small towns in the region, there's been an effort to revitalize these downtowns and try to get patrons to support businesses and restaurants in them versus the box stores and strip malls of the cookie cutter development areas. Lola's Lounge occupies a historic old building in the heart of old downtown. My friend told me it's one of those locations that has had a string of unsuccessful businesses in it. The building itself is a two-story brick structure and inside the restaurant has the bare brick walls and high ceilings. The left side is the bar area and the right side is the dining area, the sides divided by a low wall.
The menu is made up of mostly small plates, or tapas style. There are a few entrees, but these were not much bigger portions than the small plates. My friend and I opted to share some items and ordered the following:
The special small plate for the night was a lobster roll. It consisted of a sushi-type roll of chopped lobster salad rolled in a wrap of avocado slices. I liked how light and fresh it was with the thinly sliced avocado carefully used as the wrapper.
Our other cold, seafood appetizer came out at the same time - the ceviche. This was a shrimp ceviche in a spiced tomato sauce. The shrimp was balanced out by the crunch of chopped cucumber. The large bowl of ceviche was all served with a generous portion of tortilla chips to eat it with. I thought it was a great value and pretty filling for $9. I'd order this for lunch for myself.
I insisted on getting the empanadas because I really like meat pies of all nationalities. These had a shredded beef, hard boiled egg, and olives. The crust was blistered from being deep fried and they came to the table nice and hot. I liked the beef and crust, but would have preferred less egg and no olive. (That is only because I am not an olive fan and think their flavor was overpowering.)
We had selected one hot entree that came out along with the empanadas. The El Gaucho Beef was sliced and served with a cilantro chimichurri and small roasted new potatoes. Both of us really liked the chimichurri and wiped up every bit of it. The beef was cooked perfectly to a medium rare, as requested, and was sliced to make it tender.
We liked all our items, some more than others. I worried, though, about the menu. How often was it going to change? It's not a large menu and my friend had already been a month before and eaten some of the same items. The only special was a soup and the lobster roll. I could see the menu getting rather boring if you came back often enough before it got changed.
Overall, I'd recommend it. The service was attentive and friendly, the food tasty and served the right temperature, and the room was not so noisy that we had to shout to have a conversation. If they change up the menu more often and keep fresh and tasty tapas coming, they may be the success that this building has been waiting for. It's these sort of small, independent, different cuisine restaurants that the burbs need.