900 Literary Rd
Cleveland, OH 44113
by Beau Cadiyo
Michael Symon isn’t so good with choosing hostesses. At Lola, they always act as if we might not be seated for lunch if we don’t have a reservation, no matter how empty the restaurant is. At Lolita, the hostess pointedly told us that we couldn’t get our reserved table during happy hour, but she would do us the immense favor of not making us wait six minutes for our reservation and, instead, seat us immediately. Like, whatever.
The patrons are different from those at Lola. While many were in their 30s and 40s, and had the same appearance of trying to be hip, they generally did not seem desperate. They were, instead, at Lolita to eat good food and drink good alcohol. The eclectic decorations – from candles jutting out of the walls to a large, festooned pig to shower curtains and a wall reminiscent of Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors – mixed together well, the notable exception being the flat-screen television above the bar. It looked out of place, an inelegant distraction from the beauty of the remainder. The bathroom is sparse and clean. The open kitchen is dark yet vibrant, a great place to watch masters at work. For the third time in five days, Ed mentioned a dinner where the chef had disparaged Michael Symon, saying that prep boys in France knew more about food than Symon did. However, the chef apparently did not explain why Symon was supposed to be so bad, nor did Ed explain why he was telling me about it repeatedly. Judging by the reaction of everyone at the meal, this chef was likely just jealous and bitter.
The $5 Lolita Burger is the only sandwich on the menu. It is only served during happy hour and is almost identical to the Lola burger: an English muffin, meat, cheese and onions. The only difference is that the Lolita burger has a fried egg and has more, crispier bacon. Ed opined that the beef was of a slightly lower quality than that of Lola, but we agreed that the Lolita burger tasted more flavorful, more succulent, more mouthwatering (literally, my salivary glands open up whenever I re-read this sentence). We could have ordered them for the entire meal had happy hour not ended; it is hands-down the best burger I have had in Cleveland.
With only one sandwich, we moved on. The spicy chicken wings were tender, the olives warm and juicy, the big board of meats distinct and flavorful, the duck prosciutto pizza a marked disappointment (the crust was mediocre), the Swiss Chard slightly crunchy and the desserts utterly magnificent. The vanilla bean sorbet was my personal favorite, followed by the lemon semifreddo; while the chocolate pot de crème was distinct and salty, Lola does it better. All of it mixed well with the wine, beer and scotch.
Total, to comfortably fill four bellies, the meal came to $140 including a well-deserved 20% tip. I’m planning on going back at least twice in the next two weeks – the first time to bring my old boss and a special lady friend, the second to bring my best friend on a double-blind date the day after he gets married. Yes: the day after he gets married I’m going to try to set him up with another girl. That’s what friends are for.
Addendum, June 14, 2008: Symon apparently DOES know how to pick hostesses after all. Last night Kathleen was celebrating her first week of work - truly a nice, sweet girl, with the ability to turn rude people away politely and maintain a positive, sunny outlook. She was also eager to introduce us to the manager, who spent a good 10 minutes talking to us about the restaurant before being called away to his professional duties. I was thoroughly impressed by the personal touch we received - but just make sure you book ahead of time, and don't give them a hard time when there isn't any room!