When restaurateurs want to make their mark on Indianapolis, they rarely glance in the direction of the west side. They flock to the upper-class north suburbs and their adjacent cities, they swarm around downtown’s millennial-professional boom, they move to the increasingly trendy near-southside neighborhoods of Fountain Square and Fletcher Place, or they take their chances in old-school-hipster Broad Ripple. We west-siders notice articles in the Indianapolis Star or in Indianapolis Monthly boasting about new restaurants and talented chefs, cross our fingers hoping someone will give us a chance, and find ourselves let down every time, feeling neglected and déclassé while they brag about marching in lockstep toward the only compass directions that matter to the Hoosier jet set.
When I read that a new place called Lola’s Bowl and Bistro opened suspiciously close to our house, serving fine Filipino cuisine, I wondered if it was a hoax, a dream, or an imaginary story. Or, y’know, journalism made of LIES. But no, Lola’s is real and they’re on our side of the Circle City, next to the one stoplight in Clermont.
I’m already talking too much. I’ll pause here so you can stare at our dessert for a few minutes. It’s also my desktop wallpaper at work.
Before Lola’s, the proprietor first broke ground in Indy with an ice cream joint called Wyliepalooza, now with separate locations in Brownsburg (west side again!) and Fishers (north side because of course). So she’s obviously mastered the art of dessert, which became the star of our meal. Pictured above is their Turon — deep-fried plantains wrapped in rice paper, plus ice cream and trimmings. Sadly, this dessert has no super-sizing option.
To be honest, we kept our meals simple for our first visit. Anne isn’t a fan of spicy food and went with their chicken teriyaki, probably the closest they come to a benign “hamburger” option for the faint of palate. She was pleased to find it was more complex than it appears, and it was served with Shanghai Lumpia, a side item from the spring roll/crepe family.
I was in an odd mood and tried the Po Banh Mi sandwich — tempura-fried chicken liver on French bread, topped with pickled onion, daikon-and-carrot slaw, cilantro, lettuce ‘n’ tomato. I confess I’m at that advanced age when one becomes excited to see the words “chicken liver” on any menu because it’s Something Different. Fried chicken livers are my frequent go-to whenever we visit Gray Bros Cafeteria in Mooresville (as seen on TV’s Man v. Food!) or when they pop up on the local KFC buffet. Lola’s version was drier, but much thicker, and wow, did they bring the heat. The spice levels were powerful but not scarring.
Lola’s is only a few months old and so far has kept their decor modest with mild quirk. It’s an old location that’s been there for decades and seen other businesses come and go. They weren’t overflowing with customers on our visit, but I’d like to think it’s a matter of keeping the good service coming and waiting for word-of-mouth to do the trick. I trust it’s a work in progress.
In our case we owe a debt to Indianapolis Monthly for alerting us to their existence, and we’re grateful to the Lola’s staff who rarely stood still while we were there, and who thought our side of town was worth their time and efforts. Frankly it’s a refreshing change of pace and kind of a self-esteem boost. If you’re in the vicinity and not in the mood for Dairy Queen, give them consideration for your Sunday brunch, lunch or dinnertime, won’t you?