When it came time to plan our trip to Cleveland, I already had one restaurant picked out that would be a must eat it. The tough decision was lunch or dinner. Since we’re more lunch people, I made early lunch reservations on Monday just before we were about to leave town.
The restaurant? Michael Symon’s Lola Bistro. Symon actually has a couple restaurants in the Cleveland area. In addition to Lola, there’s Lolita, and B-Spot which is a burger joint…something I would be interested in, but J, not so much. We checked out menus at both Lola and Lolita and decided Lola’s lunch menu best suited us.
Our trip to Lola is not our first encounter with a Michael Symon restaurant. We ate at Roast in Detroit a few years back. We both loved the place and would love to make it back sometime for dinner. We already had high hopes for Lola since it’s sort of the flagship restaurant for the celebrity chef.
Lola Bistro is on 4th Street in downtown Cleveland’s Gateway District. 4th Street is a really neat area. At one time, it looks like it was a through street, but now it is closed off and there are a number of restaurants and shops. The restaurants spill out on to what used to be a roadway with their patios. We were about twenty minutes early for our reservation, so we walked around this area wishing we had seen this the night before. The Chocolate Bar is visible from Lola’s patio and had we walked down 4th Street last night, we may not have had to endure the disappointing meal that we did.
The restaurant opens for lunch at 11:30 and we walked in the door at 11:28. We walked in to the dimly lit restaurant to find a hostess off to the right. We told her we had 11:30 reservations and she asked us to take a seat at the bar as they weren’t quite ready to start seating yet.
The bar was not ready to serve yet either as the bartenders were taking inventory. We pulled out a couple of the bar stools and just cozied up to the glowing orange just to wait.
A few minutes after sitting down, a host came over to the bar and said they were ready to seat us. We were given the option of inside or outside, but it was still a little too warm to sit outside. He took us to a table on the upper level of the tiered dining space which overlooks the open kitchen. I don’t know if J did it on purpose or not, but she took the seat with her back to the kitchen which means I got a front row view for the lunch rush.
After a little small talk with the host (he noticed I was wearing a White Sox hat and figured out we were in town for the game), we settled in and started looking over the menu. While we were doing that, a guy who would do nothing but refill throughout the meal came over with two glasses. A few minutes later, our waitress came to take drink orders. We went with our normal Pepsi and an Iced Tea. When she came back, we had both seen enough of the menu to know what we wanted.
When J and I ate at Roast in 2009, I ordered the Roast Burger. It was one of the best burgers I had ever eaten. Lola had it’s own version of a burger on the menu and I actually passed it up. Yes, you’re reading that correctly. I decided to go outside of my comfort zone and try one of the unique creations that I don’t think I could get anywhere else.
Instead of the Lola Burger, I ordered the Fried Bologna Sandwich. It’s a pretty simple take on a pretty classic sandwich. The slice of bologna is grilled on the flat top until it gets a nice dark color. It’s then put on an English muffin with pickles, cheddar cheese, and a fried egg. The egg is cooked so the yolk is still very soft. When I slapped the top of the English Muffin on it, the yolk broke and ran everywhere. I made a pretty good choice even though I really wanted the burger. The bologna had a crunchy outer edge while the egg and English Muffin gave it that comforting breakfast sandwich taste. For the longest time, I was getting a vinegar taste that I just couldn’t put my finger on. I was originally thinking it was mustard, but I eventually remembered that there were pickles on the sandwich.
J was going back and forth with the grilled cheese and the Mac & Cheese. The Mac & Cheese was by far her favorite dish at Roast and she has been craving ever since that visit. Still, she decided to go with the Grilled Cheese to try something different. The sandwich is Chihuahua cheese, roasted red peppers, red onion, and arugula. She was very happy with her choice although she still wanted the Mac & Cheese.
The big reason she chose the Grilled Cheese is because of the fries. Both our sandwiches came with Rosemary Fries and had J ordered the Mac & Cheese, she either would have had to do without or ordered a side. The Rosemary Fries were a big hit at Roast and she desperately wanted more. The thin cut, skin on fries are seasoned with sea salt and fresh rosemary. To my surprise, there is not a fry cook slicing up potatoes for the fries as needed. I was a little surprised to see the head chef pull a bag out of the fridge and dump them in to the fryer. I guess it just goes to show with the proper technique and right seasoning, some people can make anything taste good.
Our bill was $25. Yeah, you read that right. $25 for a world class lunch at the flagship restaurant of one of the nation’s premier celebrity chef’s. I was shocked when I opened the check book and found out our lunch was so cheap. We were both stuffed and both very happy with our meals. Symon’s restaurant once again delivered leaving us wanting more. I’m almost ready to plan my next trip to Cleveland just for the opportunity to sample more of Chef Symon’s fare.