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