The breakfast menu at Lola’s Cafe is large and impressive, with each omelet, frittata, scramble, pancake and French toast choice sounding enticing.
Our server stopped by twice before my friend and I were able to decide.
“Breakfast is my favorite meal. All of these sound good,” said my companion, as he sang the chorus of the Kinks’ song “L-O-L-A Lola, lo lo lo lo Lola.”
We each got a miniature silver pitcher of cream for our coffee ($2.50 with free refills), making me like Lola’s — which opened in July on the Far West Side — even more. Usually, breakfast places give you one little pitcher to share with two or more people.
Our combined enthusiasm was quickly burst by the first few sips of the weak coffee. A chalkboard identified four options: a house blend, decaf, hazelnut and Kona. We started with the house blend, then switched to the Kona. Sadly, it was no improvement. Owner Francisco Gonzalez said the coffee comes from Harvest Ridge Coffee.
The egg dishes we ordered were equally underwhelming. The gypsy skillet ($8) had hash browns on the bottom grilled with tiny bits of ham, onion, green pepper, mushrooms and a hint of cheese, with scrambled eggs on top. The eggs, especially, needed seasoning, and the whole dish was improved with salt, pepper and hot sauce.
The south of the border scramble ($9) with chorizo, red pepper, corn, avocado and pepper jack cheese, had only a couple of pockets of cheese buried within. It was those two forkfuls that paid off. Otherwise, the chorizo lacked bite, and the whole dish needed to be doctored up. The fresh-tasting salsa served on the side helped with that. On the plus side, there was plenty of ripe avocado sliced across the top.
My companion found the eggs so light tasting, they reminded him of Egg Beaters. And that’s only a good thing if you are watching your cholesterol.
The scramble came with a choice of two sides, the skillet with one. Of the sides, the hash browns were worth ordering since they were crisp and crunchy on top. The grits were also well made and served with a handy cup of brown sugar.
From the sweet side of the menu, we got a short order of the cinnamon roll French toast ($6), and our server came over a few minutes later to say it would take a long time to prepare. We were in no hurry, so we agreed to wait.
What appeared a half-hour later were two squishy-soft little cinnamon rolls that had been battered and grilled. The battering wasn’t obvious, but the grilling was, since one had been slightly burned on one side. It was served with a small cup of unnecessary syrup.
I always appreciate when breakfast places offer an entrée-sized fruit option, and Lola’s does. This one was generous and came topped with vanilla yogurt and granola, which seemed merely like flat, toasted oats. But the pineapple, cantaloupe and honeydew melon were all at their peak of ripeness, and the strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and grapes were fresh. It came with two soft, delicious homemade biscuits.
Lola’s was doing a strong business at 10:30 a.m. on a recent Sunday. There’s a TV mounted in the corner and some small framed photos on the walls: bacon, eggs, an orange, a cow.
Gonzalez, who opened Francisco’s Cantina on East Main Street near the Capitol Square in 2011, owns both of his restaurants with family members. Lola’s is named for his late grandmother.
His family is full of excellent restaurateurs. One of his aunts runs Gloria’s Mexican Restaurant, located near Lola’s, in the same Junction Road strip of businesses, and another aunt owns the highly regarded Taqueria Guadalajara on South Park Street.
“We like to cook,” Gonzalez quipped.
Gonzalez said Lola’s doesn’t compete with Gloria’s because he mainly does breakfast, and Gloria’s focuses on lunch and dinner. (The lunch selection at Lola’s is much smaller than the sprawling breakfast options.) He also serves primarily American food.
If only he would brew stronger coffee and season his egg dishes better, Lola’s breakfasts could join the ranks of the other great restaurants in the family.