In an ongoing quest for the perfect eggs benedict, a friend and I recently treated ourselves to brunch at Lola’s Café, on Madison’s west side.
Tucked onto the end of a mini mall on Junction Road, the restaurant specializes in breakfast items, most of all the egg in dozens of permutations.
“It’s what I have for breakfast every day,” said Francisco Gonzalez, who opened Lola’s Café in July. “Eggs, hashbrowns, bacon and toast.
This is Gonzalez’s second restaurant in Madison. He opened Francisco's Cantina, a casual Mexican restaurant on East Main Street near the Capital Square, in summer 2011.
When relatives from Mexico arrived last year, they took over running that eatery. Gonzalez decided it was time to expand.
“I worked in a lot of family restaurants, so I wanted to go back to that kind of cooking,” he said.
Focusing on breakfast and lunch, Gonzalez likes offering healthier options of morning standards, including plenty of vegetables. There are a few Mexican American touches on the menu, like a breakfast burrito, eggs with chorizo, a fajita omelet and a "South of the Border" scramble featuring pico de gallo.
The majority of Lola’s focuses on eggy breakfast standards, from omelets and scrambles, to frittatas and skillets. There are eight different versions of eggs benedict on offer, and side dishes include light, fluffy biscuits, grits and fresh fruit.
The namesake Lola’s benedict ($9.50) proved satisfying, a creative riff on a familiar dish. Served on toasted English muffins, perfectly poached eggs sat on a layer of diced ham and bacon, sautéed mushrooms and chopped asparagus.
Light hollandaise covered both lovely stacks. On the side, golden brown hashbrowns contrasted a brightly dressed mixed green salad.
For the vegetarian breakfast burrito ($8), the kitchen filled a slightly crunchy browned tortilla with soft scrambled eggs, a blend of melted cheese, fried potatoes, sautéed onions, green peppers and fresh diced tomatoes. Sour cream and salsa on the side added a nice kick and contrast.
Of course breakfast wouldn’t be complete without pancakes and French toast. Pancakes can be customized to include berries, granola, bananas or even bacon.
Can’t decide between apple fritter French toast, fresh berry or a third stuffed with bananas, strawberries and Nutella? Don't choose: Lola's serves a sampler of any three varieties ($9).
For “dessert,” my friend and I shared bites of French toast ($8 for 6 slices, $6 for 3). Lola's cut day-old cinnamon rolls in thirds horizontally, then dipped them in egg batter, fried them up and dusted them with powdered sugar.
The top piece still sported its icing and didn’t need any maple syrup, but the bottom and middle benefited from it. Since the middle slice was the most similar to bread, it soaked up the egg the most thoroughly, but the bottom was a bit dry.
Nevertheless, we ate the whole, sweet dish. Bottomless cups of coffee ($2.50) were kept refilled by several friendly and attentive servers.
Gonzalez did not plan to open his new breakfast spot in the same mini mall as his cousin’s eatery, Gloria's Mexican Restaurant, but there have been perks to having family near. During our breakfast, a whole troupe of Gloria’s staff sat at the counter for breakfast before their shifts started. Gonzalez said he usually heads to Gloria’s for lunch when he closes Lola's at 3 p.m.
Gonzalez learned to cook while helping out at his grandmother’s restaurant in Mexico City as a child. The restaurant business is in his veins.
“My parents had restaurants in Mexico,” he said. “We all grew up there. Each generation learns to cook and passes it on.”