As the saying goes, “Where there is a will, there is a way.” It took four years of emotional pain, aggravation, sleepless nights, excessive legal problems, and various other expenses that depleted their bank account. But the struggle with the SoHo community group who opposed the opening of this gorgeous place finally came to a close as Lola and her husband Tom won the right to bring Lola to life—in full swing. Just like the original Lola in Chelsea that was known for its Southern comfort food, live music and prosperous clientele.
The interior resembles a New York supper club circa 1940 with circular booths and cozy tables set with individual lamps. The ceiling is draped with royal purple and gold satin fabric with elegant chandeliers, and an elevated stage where jazz from the 20s, 30s, or even contemporary gospel is playing depending on the day of the week.
Guests can dine al fresco style, with the French doors open to the sidewalk. If you are in the mood for intimacy, the gallery dining room behind the stage may suit your tastes. There is also a private garden, which can seat up to 35 people. The lounge is surrounded with French windows that can be closed to block the music should you so desire.
Lola describes the food as “food of the Bayou, and then you French it up.” However, my friend and I noticed that there was some Southern touch to it; that sweetness incorporated with special spices. Lola later noted, “It is soul food.” And good to her word, that is what one will experience.
Our meal for the evening consisted almost entirely of Lola’s signature dishes. We started with the corn meal dusted crispy fried Creole calamari served with chipotle cocktail sauce. The corn meal gives it a wonderful texture, while the chipotle sauce adds a refreshing taste. The crab cakes accompanied with celery root remoulade is a wonderful contrast of sweet and spicy.
For the main course, we had the shrimp and grits—chipotle honey-glazed shrimp over creamy grits topped with pan-fried corn. It was a fabulous combination of amazing flavors. My friend had something quite unique, Bayou pirogue, a scooped-out slow-roasted eggplant “boat” stuffed with shrimp, crab and andouille, and I do mean stuffed, this dish is one to take note of.
Dessert, brownies, exotic … what? That’s right, I never thought the words “brownies” and “exotic” would find their way into the same sentence, especially since I tend to find brownies to be quite boring, but these particular brownies were out of this world—banana pecan brownies, served warm with vanilla ice cream and raspberry sauce. We also tried the bread pudding, and Lola’s bread pudding sits in a puddle of melted white chocolate. I think the aforementioned sentence describes quite clearly how good it tasted without my having to say it directly.
As your taste buds slowly savor each bite, you can enjoy jazz and classic rhythm and blues. Lola is also known for its gospel brunch every Sunday afternoon. During the week, various types of jazz ranging from classical to contemporary, as well as soft rock and a mix of classic R&B are played. If you are into big band music, Friday and Saturday nights are where it’s at. Lenny Kravitz himself has actually inquired about jamming at Lola’s!
While enjoying the show you can indulge in some of Lola’s unique cocktails. “The Lola” is a flute filled with bubbly Italian Prosecco with a touch of liqueur (orange, mango and passion fruit), or “ Lychee Rose”—a mixture of Reyka vodka with Absolut Ruby Red topped with cranberry and grapefruit juice. With the presidential elections on the horizon you can always try the “Obamatini,” a lovely blend of black and white chocolate. Due to issues concerning national security, I am unable to disclose further information concerning this drink.
If wine is your preference, there is an extensive and carefully selected wine list. Whether your interest is International or New World, you will get a great recommendation from Lola, Tom, or the friendly waitstaff. And for special occasions, guests can treat themselves to one of Lola’s Favorites such as Xtant, a 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Malbec blend from Napa Valley or a 1985 Warre’s Vintage Port.
THE VERDICT: Lola’s puts the “soul” in soul food.
PRICE POINTS: Appetizers: $5–22
Soups & Salads: $6–14
Lola is located at 15 Watts Street (at Thompson Street), (212) 675-6700 and is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. Live music seven nights a week. Gospel brunch Sundays, with two seatings at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
Gospel Brunch: $37, which includes cover charge, 3-course meal, and a cocktail.
Pre Fix Lunch: $15, which includes an appetizer and entrée.
A 3-course dinner with cocktail ranges from $45–$87.
For a constantly updated music schedule visit the online event calendar at www.lolaissoul.com