Thursday, August 30, 2012

If you want a very average restaurant, go to...

Go to Lola..  My wife and I went to Lola's for the $25 meals for the Dining Downtown event.  It was a good thing too, because after our experience at Lola's., we will not be going back.  It wasn't terrible and nothing we had caught on fire or we didn't get hurt, but the restaurant left us asking so many questions.  We had more questions without answers than the end of the first half of Season 6 of Doctor Who.  A quick summary of things and issues?  Okay.  The wait staff, cooks, dishwashers and buss-boys all had the same uniform or dress code: which was none.  The restaurant was divided into 3 sections, blue, wooden and bar.  The food was average.  The wait staff was forgetting and everything was merely okay.

The deal going on at this time was great because for just $25 a piece, my wife and I could both enjoy the food without paying full price; which would have been about $27 for me and about $34 for my wife.  So, every bit helps.

First, let's talk about the restaurant.  It had their grand opening on January 9, 2010.  This makes it a very young restaurant, in terms of restaurants.  So, it is almost 3 years old.  It is amazing how it lasted this long unless...oh yeah, I forgot.  The issue with St. Louis is that most people have never had really good food so we are complacent with the mediocre.  I'm not harping at other people, here.  I grew up thinking that fish sticks really were real fish where the tail and fins and head were removed.  I worked at Old County Buffet/Home Town Buffet and thought that the new items that they introduced every few months were incredible. I thought that the mediocre was good.  Until I opened up.  St. Louis has a lot of greats, but not everything in St. Louis is great.

Back to Lola.. The inside of the bar, where we had our 7:15 reservation, was dark.  There was a stage set-up with DJ equipment, LCD screens behind this near the ceiling, and some of those artsy lights, hanging above the concrete bar top.  Two little one-person bathrooms were squished against the wall, where you could go out to a small patio space and smoke, with the rest of the wait staff and dishwashers. There was almost no decoration on the walls.  There was a large Mardi Gras style mask next to the bar and their black drink menu, covering the whole wall behind the bar, with their signature blue and white lettering, added to the colors of this space. I didn't know what to think.  There was a large square "table tent" on our table, where we could spin it and see who was performing or what the specials were, a large glass bottle of water with a "360" on it, and a small votive candle.  It was as if someone was trying for a Mardi Gras atmosphere and then gave up and just went for the "romantic" idea, with the little candle and then gave up on that too.  Oh yeah, it was dark as well.  Dark enough that even though it was raining at this time, at 7:20pm, my camera needed its flash in order to take any photos of the food.

The next part of the restaurant, which was behind us and up two steps, was what I call the wooden room.  It probably was about 16 by 16 square and with a 15 or 16 foot ceiling.  At the top, you could see 4, four, tiny red light bulbs, which added some color to the room and hardly any light.  There was three 2-tops on one side of the room and a 4-top and a 2-top on the other side, allowing a walk-way for people to get to either the bar area or the blue room.  Now, I went on their website and found a picture of an unknown guy, posing in this middle wooden room.
Until today, until now, I thought the walls behind him were brown.  This room is never lit or wasn't Saturday night and the walls, under no light except the little red ones, appeared to be brown.  I actually think this is a different room, but its not.

The blue room, took up the rest of the restaurant and had pictures and paintings on the wall, as well as many windows, and lights.  It was a difference between night and day where we were sitting in night and that side of the restaurant was day.

Now, the staff.  I recognized the manager only because he was wearing a white and red, plaid, collared shirt.  Our waiter, John, was wearing a black hoodie, black jeans and brown shoes.  We saw another server, with tattoos on his arms, walking around with black dress pants and a black button down shirt.  The buss-boys had black shirts and pants, the cooks had black shirts and pants and even the dishwasher that came out of the back, walked into the bar and stared at the TV showing a Rams game, was wearing a black shirt and black pants.  There was one waiter, wearing a grey shirt with a design on it.  The bartender at the time, was a woman wearing a grey shirt as well.  If black was the uniform or black or gray, I find it strange that they were not asked to stay within the bounds of the same type of clothing.  Perhaps have the back of the house staff all wear black tshirts and pants and have the front wear grey or something like that.  Now, while this is starting to seem a bit confused and unorganized, wait to you read about this.  Another bartender came in.  So, I'm looking around at my surroundings, which I try to be aware of at all times, and I see this tall, blonde woman walk in, wearing red high heels and a black and white polka-dot dress.  I think that she fits in, if this was a pinup bar or something.  My wife and I both see her walk in and towards the bar.  Then something strange happens, she goes behind the bar and clocks in.  She was a bartender.  This is strange, you can't have a restaurant where it looks like people don't follow a dress code.

Now to the food.  The deal was that we had a selection of food to pick from.  We were given the choice of one starter, one entre' and then one dessert item, all for $25.  My wife ordered an ice tea for $1.59 and I ordered a Stella Artois for $5.  (It seems a bit much for the beer considering that it is a domestic, or maybe AB is an import...)  So, My wife gets the House Salad, the Salmon St. Charles and the bread pudding with rum sauce.  I order the Creole Chicken Wings, the Chicken and Waffles and two scoops of some brown sugar and whiskey ice cream.

The chicken wings were okay.  They were not overly spicy like hot wings or buffalo wings.  They were good as they were also cooked perfectly and the skin on the outside was a bit crispy.  They wee just not something with a lot of "oomph".  It seemed that when they were first made, everyone said they were good and the chef was okay with them being good, not great or incredible.  They were good and I had 7 of these big things on my plate.  I liked them, and would pay the full price for them, the $8 as shown on their regular menu.  But, would I really even come back?  They were good, just good or average, which is a 3 out of 5 stars in my book.  If someone asked me where to get good wings, I'd recommend Lola.  But the wings and the sauce was no better than say... Buffalo Wild Wings.

So, it is the first time that I have ordered Chicken and Waffles at a restaurant.  Really.  I love fried chicken and I love waffles so much that I make my own at home.  Maybe because I know a think or two about chicken and waffles is why this didn't go over too well with me.  I will say that the waffles were done perfectly.  They were light and fluffy, probably to begin with.  Then it looks like someone drenched them in butter, honey and maple syrup; which again, is good.  Then came the chicken, on top, which was a battered and fried chicken breast.  To quote Robert Irvine, "It wasn't seasoned."  A little salt or pepper goes a long way and I don't recall tasting anything but chicken.  No salt, no spices, just sweetness, as if they used honey in a glaze on the chicken after they pulled it from the fryer.  Then, the sprinkles some chopped scallions on top.  So, here is how it went for me.  I take a bite of chicken, and get a sweetness with the savory chicken and then tart chopped onions on top.  Not a good taste in my mouth.  I then take a bit of syrup drenched waffle and get dry waffle with tartness from the scallions on this as well.  It just didn't seem to add up.  I give this one a 3, maybe even a 2.5 out of 5.

So, I finish with a scoop or two of whiskey and brown sugar ice cream.  This item isn't even on the normal menu.  The first bite was good, the second bite was good and the third bite was good.  You could taste the sweetness and creamy-ness and it reminded me of a brown sugar cookie.  The fourth bite, is when the whiskey started to kick in and every bite after that became more and more sour.  It was okay, average, and frankly: I could have made a better flavor in my home.  I gave it a 2.5 out of 5.

So, my wife let me try her food as well.  The salad was okay, but had too much dressing.

  The salmon was cooked properly, but there was so much butter or fat in the sauce and the wild rice mixture was under seasoned.  Lastly, the vegetable du jour, which came with her salmon dish, was two (2) pieces of asparagus.

  Then her dessert?  The bread pudding with the rum sauce?  Well, the piece they gave us was burnt.  Yep, burnt on all sides, as if they took a piece out of the chiller, popped it into an oven and let it sit too long.

We actually cut away the burnt parts to get to the inside and even then, it was just good, but not super.  My wife, whom is on a diet right now, mentioned that the food, overall is good, but she would not waste the points coming here again.  I agree.  I think if they had a uniform, turned some lights on, had a coherent decor and had better food, yes, I'd come back here. 

1 comment:

  1. How awful! The plating was even a mess. Really, I thought the ice cream looked the most appealing. SMH.