On my first trip to Cleveland back in 2012, I thought it would be incredibly neat to dine at the Michael Symon restaurant Lola. Although normally I prefer frequenting obscure, ethnic hole in the wall spots, I’m also not opposed to trying out famous culinary establishments when given the chance (although Symon is known throughout the country today, he’s still a Cleveland boy at heart). Well, I never got to dine there because there were no reservations save for the 9 PM hour and as I’m not in Spain where this is the norm, no thanks.
So on my most recent visit to the C-Town, having learned from the past, I made a reservation at Lola weeks in advance. And you know what? Being the early bird meant that I got to experience one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time.
Lola is located in the downtown’s trendy pedestrian only East Fourth Street (it’s just down the street from another great culinary venue, The Greenhouse Tavern). It’s extremely hip (no surprise there) with a lack of lighting to match (my only mild complaint is that it truly was ridiculously dark inside) but that’s the ambiance. And unlike other similar places, I didn’t feel the noise level was bad at all. No, it wasn’t quiet and intimate but it also didn’t feel like the inside of a bar on Super Bowl night.
The drink menu was on an iPad (definitely the 21st century way of perusing alcohol selections), but as soon as I saw a favorite of mine that really isn’t on any drink menus here in Pittsburgh, my mind was made up. I ordered a delicious pisco sour, the heart and soul of the Peruvian beverage world.
As one would expect at a place like Lola where the chef is world famous, the menu selections are definitely different. They’re of the “I dare you to try” variety from a tasting standpoint. And that’s what we did, ordering the Beef Cheek Pierogi ($14). Well, beef cheek wasn’t entirely new to me as I had it last year at a restaurant in Pittsburgh but D was a bit leery (yes, we’re talking about the facial muscle of a cow). We told the waitress we wanted to split it, so we actually got our own individual pierogis. It was decadent-the wild mushroom and horseradish creme fraiche just superb. Needless to say D loved it just as much.
For my entree I went with the Smoked Pork Chop ($29). This came with chiles, polenta, and BBQ onions. The portion was quite large although there was a bit more fat on it than I would have liked. However, I know it’s the fat that always gives the meat its delicious flavor. I also wish there had been more polenta as the broth had somewhat liquified it. But taste wise, I really did enjoy it.
D ordered the Beef Hanger Steak ($31) for his entree. I sold him on it when I told him that I had read rave reviews of the Lola fries, which it came with (in addition to featuring pickle sauce and chiles). I thought he would get a small amount of fries on the side of his plate. Oh no, they came in their own contraption and the portion seemed never ending. He was thoroughly pleased with his selection.
As for dessert, the Lola Smore and the 6 AM special both sounded incredible, but with all the eating we had done that day (lunch and goodies at the Westside Market) and then the previous night for our anniversary dinner, I wanted something a tad lighter. So we went for something totally different but pleasing all the same. I selected the Raspberry Rhubard Verrine ($9). This consisted of Yuzu Bavarian mousse and ginger whipped cream, topped with an almond hibiscus macaron. It was probably the lightest thing we could have ordered and one that didn’t disappoint or push us overboard from feeling full.
Dining at Lola was everything I had thought and hoped it would be. It was an incredible meal from start to finish and the service top notch. If you’re an ardent foodie and ever find yourself in the Cleveland area, be sure to pay homage to this great Symon restaurant.
2058 E 4th St | Cleveland, OH | 44115