9.05.2016

Eat the Guide: Lola's on Esplanade

Hello!  Welcome to the new NOiG series Eat the Guide!  Are y'all excited?  In this series, I will explore the scores of restaurants included in the NOIG Guide to Vegan-Friendly Restaurants.  You can follow along in the guide or right here on the blog each Monday morning, or both of course.  Enjoy!

On Saturday evening, my husband Jonathan and I kicked off the Eat the Guide project by dining at Lola's in the Esplanade Ridge neighborhood of Mid-City.  This adorable Spanish restaurant is known for its paella and its wall full of Simon paintings, and offers far more vegan options than one might suspect at first glance.

Lola's Facade
Appearance and Atmosphere:  Lola's is cozy without being cramped, and has a couple tables out front on Esplanade Avenue.  Even when full to capacity, the smallish space does not become overwhelmed by noise and is still enjoyable.  A favorite decorating detail beside the wall of Simon is the cast iron skillets hung above the open-air kitchen showing paella / fideua sizes, so that you know exactly what you're getting in to. 

Hours of Operation: Lola's is open for dinner only, from 5:30 to 9:30 Sunday to Thursday and from 5:30 to 10 on Friday and Saturday.

Service Style: Full table service.  No separate checks are offered, and parties larger than 8 cannot be accommodated.  Due to popularity, expect that you may have to wait for a table.

Garlic Brussels Sprouts
On-Menu Vegan Options: Options are astoundingly wide, and  include the vegetarian paella and fideua, the garlic mushroom appetizer, three soups (lentil, gazpacho, and ajoblanco), and the pisto and linguini entrees.  Salads can also easily be ordered without cheese.  Of note: the house pesto does not contain cheese and is vegan, as is the garlicky spread served with the bread that comes before your meal.

Alcohol or Espresso:  Lola's offers wine, beer, and house-made red and white sangria.  I was not able to investigate whether the wines on offer or those used to make the house sangria are vegan; curious parties should make good use of Barnivore upon consulting the wine list when visiting.  There are definitely vegan beers on hand including Abita.  Espresso is available as a classic meal finisher; cappuccino is also available but alas, no soy milk.  None of the restaurant's three desserts are vegan, but they are all gluten-free.

Price Range:  Starters run from $6 to $8 each; entrees start at $18 and are very generously portioned.  Two hungry adults could happily dine on two appetizers and one shared entree.

Pisto Plate
My Experience:  We had a lovely evening.  Our server was completely accommodating, indulging every one of my questions with a smile.  Despite the oncoming Saturday evening rush, service was prompt and our table so well attended that our water glasses were never more than half empty.

The food was divine and there was far too much of it: we ordered the garlic Brussels sprouts (the tapas of the day, totally vegan without modification, prepared as the on-menu garlic mushrooms are), the vegetarian fideua (like paella but made with angel hair pasta), and the pisto (two portobello mushroom caps stuffed with vegetables and served with black beans and rice on the side).  We went home with two full to-go boxes that made lovely lunches through the weekend.

Vegetable Fideua
Final Thoughts: Lola's is splendid, and is welcoming for vegans who want a nice night out.  Consider it for any date night or small special celebration such as a birthday with your closest friends.  And think bigger than paella: while it's the signature dish and is delicious, options for vegans go far beyond at this delightful restaurant.

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