Lolita’s Happy Hour

All day long I was dreaming about those brussels sprouts. The last time I ate them, it was snow and bluster and gray. The opposite today, with blue skies laden with clouds straight out of a Dutch Masters’ painting, had me thinking more of tomatoes and zucchini and peaches. At my lunchbreak, I dutifully feasted on those things, scented with fresh basil and fine olive oil. When I was released from work, I headed directly to Lolita to scratch my itch.

These crispy, salty gems have haunted me since I ate them last winter. I ate other things that day. I had a milky, light ricotta spread with perfectly grilled slices of baguette. Topped with a trickle of olive oil and a pinch of sea salt, it was simply milk, solidified. I splurged on paper thin slivers of La Quercia prosciutto, the Acorn Edition. This melt-in-your-mouth indulgence did, in fact, taste faintly of the acorns on which the pig had gorged himself before making the supreme sacrifice. (Warning to swine everywhere: If they start feeding you acorns, watch your back.) There was even sticky toffee pudding, warm and oozing and satisfying.

What I remember most from that afternoon, though, were the brussels sprouts. These babies had been fried. No boiling or steaming here! Cut into quarters, the edges had turned crispy and brown. They had been tossed with walnuts, capers, parsley and anchovy.  I was not disappointed tonight. They were just as outrageously flavorful as I remembered. These are NOT your Grandma’s brussels sprouts. They are a grownup, citified, 21st century vegetable. They are reason enough to stop in at Lolita. I also snacked on a dozen mussels, cooked off with chorizo, sliced garlic and wine, presented in a miniature cocotte. A wee basket of french rolls came alongside for sopping up all those juices. These bivalves offered the protein I needed to make a “balanced” meal, but really they were just an excuse to order the sprouts.

These items are all part of the Happy Hour menu. Available only at the bar in the early and late shoulders of the evening, the menu is small but well-tuned. In addition to the above mussels and brussels, there is a chickpea spread which has since replaced the ricotta. There is a half order of mac and cheese with rosemary and chicken, as well as the famous Lolita (Lola) Burger. This is on the menu at all of Chef Symon’s venues. It starts with a hefty beef patty and adds pickled onions, cheddar cheese, bacon and a fried egg. During Happy Hour, it’s an astonishing five dollars! (Each of the HH menu items is just five bucks.) There are cocktail specials, too, all at $2, $4, and $5. The full Lolita menu is also available at the bar, if you want to round things out with a pizza or add on a dessert. The service was friendly and low-key. My fellow barmates all seemed to be enjoying themselves, too, with our main topic of conversation being the food in front of us. My hour there certainly made me happy!