Lolita – A New Restaurant by Experienced Restaurateurs

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Lolita is the new creation by the former owners of Bar Lola. When Bar Lola closed, owners Guy and Stella Hernandez planned on opening a new joint and Lolita is what came of it. Not having paid close attention to recent openings locally, I was surprised when my wife told me she made a reservation there as I wasn’t yet familiar with the restaurant. After brushing up on the last couple months of Portland food happenings, I got the 411 and was excited to try it.

On a Saturday evening, four of us ventured over to Munjoy Hill and found Lolita. We had reservations for 8:45. We walked in, were quickly greeted, and told our table would be ready shortly. The restaurant was very nice. There were great looking light fixtures made with iron pipes, a long bar, lots of wine on wall shelves, and an overall cool, relaxed atmosphere. A few minutes later, we were told that someone had commandeered our table and for reasons which we’re divulged to us, were hesitant to ask that person to move. It was no big deal, and a little while later, we finally were seated.

With the wait to be seated a bit longer than usual, I was ready to take a look at the food and drink menus and put in some orders. The waiter came by and gave us a quick breakdown of the restaurant which had only been open for a few weeks. The menu contained various sizes of plates which could be ordered based on the enormity of your appetite and the number of people wanting to share. The drink menu had a beer selection on the reverse side and there was a separate wine menu.

I was in the mood for a mixed drink and was strongly considering whiskey. The mixed drinks were separated into “Classic” and “Spirited”. One of the classics was a Manhattan which is always a possible go-to for me. However, right below, I laid my eyes on the De La Louisiane #2 – Bulliet Bourbon, Benedictine, Noilly Prat Sweet Vermouth, Peychaud’s Bitters, and Pernod Rinse. I decided that would be my chosen drink for the night.

The waiter came by to get our drink orders and in addition to my drink, there was also more whiskey, beer, and wine ordered. He also gave a handful of specials then parted and said he’d be back to answer any questions and take our food orders. We sat waiting and partaking in a discussion about our favorite 80’s pro-wrestling characters and comparing Hulk Hogan to Hillbilly Jim. When the waiter came back, we “hulked up” and asked him a handful of questions and got ready to place our orders. I was impressed with his knowledge of the menu and we got all our answers without needing to leg drop him.

A number of food items were ordered for our table. My selections started with Consider Bardwell Farm cheese from VT. Next, I chose one of the specials – Grilled Oysters with Whiskey Mignonette. I’m not much for raw oysters, but I love them cooked and I’d never had them grilled, so I was ready to try them. The last part of my order was a special of meatballs. I’m a big meatball fan and make great ones myself, but I hoped they’d have some good ones too. Bucatini, Grilled Vegetables, and more cheeses rounded out the orders.

We were all having a great time chatting, but after a while I couldn’t help but notice that it was taking an exceptionally long time to get our drinks. Before they finally came, there were a couple grumblings at our table about the wait. Nonetheless, the drinks did eventually get to us. I tried mine right away. Boom! It was amazing. It had the strength of a gorilla and not the slightest bit of burn. It was as smooth as you could imagine – an absolutely top-notch cocktail. I was really impressed.

Sipping of drinks continued, but unfortunately, so did the waiting. It was excessive and we didn’t get much in the way of updates, though the waiter did come by to see if we needed more drinks. Some at the table were really dismayed by the food and drink delay, but of course, the food did finally arrive. The first course that came out was just cheese which is how we requested it. The cheese came with some crisp bread/crackers and a smear of honey. I’m pretty easy to please when cheese is involved and this occasion was no different. I loved it and the honey was a nice touch to add a little sweetness.

Once we devoured the cheese, we waited again. The rest of the food came after another significant delay. My grilled trio of oysters was the next starting point. I tried one. It was delicious with the mild whiskey flavor adding a nice touch to the mignonette sauce. They were really good and an excellent example of cooked oysters. With those were done, I put the meatballs in my line of fire. There were three of those little bastards and they were daring me to eat them. I forked one of them and dumped it in my mouth like taking a child’s toy and putting the circle peg in the round hole. They were outstanding – crispy on the outside and soft on the inside with a not-too-meaty, but hearty texture and a mild sweetness followed by explosive flavor. They were particularly great since they were very different than the ones I make but every bit as tasty. It didn’t hurt that they had them on a bed of cheesy sauce and other delicious accompaniments.

We all finished our food and drink. Everyone seemed to like it. We considered dessert, but ended up passing. Our bill came to 130 bucks pre-tip. That included seven drinks, three cheeses, and five other food orders.  I was very happy with what we consumed, but like the others at my table, was concerned about the wait. It was okay to an extent since we were having a good time, but we didn’t get an update on the status of the orders which was the bigger issue. In the future, I hope an update on an order that takes too long will be standard practice.

Despite the wait, I would definitely recommend Lolita for the food and drink. It’s entirely possible that the delays were due to the newness of the restaurant and were just a kink that hadn’t been worked out yet. I’m confident that the experience of the owners will lead to that being corrected. The strong knowledge of the wait staff, the appealing decor, and the great food will keep people walking in the door as long as the food delivery time is cleaned up a bit.

Stay hungry.

Feel free to email me at peterpeterportlandeater@yahoo.com with any thoughts, suggestions, criticisms, or otherwise helpful info or feel free to post your thoughts below. Also, like the Peterpeterportlandeater page on Facebook. Follow me on Twitter @Portlandeater.

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