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Nov 14, 2006 01:22 AM

Phoenix AZ Review: Lola's Tapas

Yes, another review of Lola's. I was a skeptic but actually liked this place after I broke down and gave it a try.

Lola Tapas
800 E. Camelback Rd.
Phoenix, AZ 85014

My wife and I recently attended an evening event at the newly expanded Phoenix Art Museum. After a few hors-d’oeuvres at the museum, we wanted a light option for dinner on the way home. Lola's, which I had read about in the local media and in previous posts on this board, seemed a good choice, especially since we thought the lack of a reservation (Lola’s does not take them.) would not be a problem on a weekday night.

We found the restaurant only about one-third full when we arrived and were offered two seats at an empty community table. Interestingly, the host seemed to encourage us to sit side-by-side on one side of the table, but we rejected that offer and instead sat across from each other. As the evening progressed, another party was seated at the other end of our table, but there was still a buffer zone between us and the other party. I suspect the situation would be different on a busy weekend night. After seeing the shoebox of a space that Lola’s occupies, I am a bit more understanding of the decision to use community tables. The big tables might be more a way to adapt to the constraints of the room than an attempt to impose a utopian “know your neighbor” philosophy on customers.

I was a little worried about the limited beverage selection in light of my wife’s pregnancy, but our server offered either orange juice or cranberry juice ($2 for either) as non-alcoholic options. I opted for a glass of Kronenbourg beer from France, one of two draft selections available. The beer glass was not a full pint, but the price was a mere $3.50, so I have no reason to complain. The wine offerings look interesting and will warrant a try during a future visit.

We selected four tapas: shrimp with garlic, sautéed mushrooms, spicy chick peas with spinach, and the daily special, which was a spread made from walnuts and speckled with pomegranate arils. All were quite good – and unexpectedly filling. Although I enjoyed the walnut spread, there was so much of it that I took half home and enjoyed it on my toast the next morning. The shrimp and mushroom dishes, both fairly standard on tapas menus, were solid and unsurprising. The chick peas and spinach combination, which I have not seen before, was probably my favorite. Lemon and red pepper flavors combined with the nuttiness of the chick peas to produce a satisfying combination. Each dish cost between $6 and $8, and I think that two tapas per person is a good rule of thumb if everyone is hungry enough to make a full meal of tapas.

Lola’s offers one dessert per day, and during our visit the featured item was a custard with fresh cherries ($6). The serving size was just right for two to share, and the fresh cherries had an appealing tartness that contrasted nicely with the sweet custard. Sadly, Lola’s could not fulfill a request for a cup of tea to end the meal. Since teabags (or loose tea) take up so little storage space, this aspect of the limited beverage selection seems more puzzling than the lack of soda.

Service was friendly and efficient throughout the meal, although I can still never get used to being addressed as “you guys.” The décor was attractive, and I especially liked the embossed metal on the ceilings. The one oddity was the metal napkin dispensers on the tables, a detail that would seem more appropriate in a fast-food environment.

We left satisfied and definitely interested in a return visit. Despite a few minor issues noted above with the tea and the napkin dispensers, our experience was a positive one. We’ll probably avoid busy weekend nights lest we find ourselves sandwiched between two big groups at a community table, but for a light meal on the way home from a midweek event or a casual get-together with friends, Lola’s is a welcome addition to the Central Phoenix dining options.

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  1. Glad you enjoyed Lola's. Funny we weren't offered juices when we were there, but it's been about six weeks and that may be a new adjustment to the menu.

    I thought the metal napkin dispensers were a little odd, also. I understand, with lots of little dishes over time, linens may get dirty, and I don't mind paper napkins too much, but a nicer display would be great.

    I didn't care for the chick peas too much, they were probably my least favorite dish. Personal preferences, of course.

    Have a great day!

    1. Ironically, I almost went to Lola's after a Phx Art Museum event recently but was worried that it would be too busy.

      Two months ago I went and luckily found a seat easily. The staff said the place really gets crowded on the weekend.

      I sat at the community table as well. Is this a more European eating tradition?

      Three tapas satisfied the the two of us - with the garlic shrimp by far stealing the show. The sangria ... strawberry flavored I think? ... was quite flavorful. Think they said something about changing flavors of the sangria every day/week?

      Most importantly, my companion actually just returned from a vacation from Spain and she liked it. It's asking a lot for a place to compare to the real thing but they did a credible job.

      1. I spent quite a lot of time in Spain perusing tapas bars, and I don't know the reason why, but I seem to remember many having the diner-ish metal napkin dispensers. The same in Italia. They definitely don't have "soda pop", they would be offended by the very idea. It would not be normal to take either children or health conscious child bearing women to a tapas bar in Spain. Also, most tapas are a bit salty by definition, I doubt they are both over salty and without flavor here. Authentic?
        I would go here for the experience alone

        1 Reply
        1. re: biffmo

          Since I first posted that review, Lola has relaxed its no-soda policy. There is now a limited selection of sodas available. In this case, consumer preferences and good business sense trumped rigid authenticity.

          Interestingly, on both visits I've made to Lola I've been with a pregnant woman -- the first time my wife, the second time with another couple who was expecting. We did get a sitter for our child, however. It's definitely not a good place for young children due to the seating.

        2. My one visit I thought it only slightly above average. I only say because it was so busy and loud that we could not hear ourselves think. Also, the community booth in back requires anyone in the far end to make the rest of the booth get up. Akward if you do not know the people there. I was the only one in the party whom did not enjoy the night, oddly enough.

          1. Lola has started opening Monday thru Saturday from 7 am - Noon as a coffee bar. Daniel and Felicia were the original owners of Lux Coffee so they know their beans and roasted all the beans "in-house"...

            I was in there this morning and Daniel gave me this coupon and he said it would be alright to print it out and come in for a free drink to check out the morning offerings that include pastries and soon I hope that tortilla de patatas

            6 Replies
            1. re: Molto E

              Do you know if they are selling beans?

                1. re: Molto E

                  We're out of beans at home, so I have an excuse to go out for coffee tomorrow morning. ;-)

                  I'll check to see if they are selling beans, or if they have any plans to do so.

                  1. re: Molto E

                    After struggling past all of the parade-related barricades this morning (oy), we found out that Lola does sell beans, but the operation seems pretty rudimentary at this point. The beans we bought were brought out to us in to-go containers like you see in Chinese restaurants rather than in bags.

                    My drink (Americano) was good, but not quite up the standard set by Lux. At this point, they are only serving pastry (all housemade) during the coffee service. Today they had plain and chocolate croissants, shortbread, a berry tart, chocolate-dipped biscotti, and something I'm forgetting. We shared a chocolate croissant and a wedge of berry tart. Both were quite good. The croissant was billowy, crisp, and flaky, but I was especially impressed that the tart filling was not overly sweetened, so that the flavors of the fruit could shine through.

                    I'm not sure Lola will replace Lux as our weekly coffee stop, but it is nice to have another option nearby.

                    1. re: hohokam

                      was Daniel making the drink? I had the chocolate croissant and the shortcake (that was supposed to be for later in the day but it did not make it past a few blocks) and enjoyed both. They do have Wi-Fi there and at the present time is a great place for morning meetings. Let me know how the beans are...

                      1. re: Molto E

                        Well, seeing as this thread has been bumped today, I'll go ahead and provide much-delayed responses...

                        Daniel was not making the drinks during our visit--the only people working FOH were 2 young women, one of whom I recognized as a server from previous visits.

                        The bean blend they were selling was a bit over-roasted for my taste, but it seemed to be fresh and of good quality. I recognized the flavor as being similar to the cafe corto the restaurant serves during dinner.

                        I would urge potential bean buyers to make sure that their beans are weighed prior to purchase. We were shorted by quite a bit, but due to the holidays and immediately subsequent work travel I never got around to alerting the owners to this issue.