Old Covington is a charming historic neighborhood that seems light years away from the bustle of downtown New Orleans. Here you'll find Lola, a popular and cozy neighborhood restaurant. I'd heard nothing but praise for Lola from Northshore friends, especially the simple lunchtime menu of soups, salads and light fare.
The restaurant occupies a renovated train depot, and a locomotive juts out of the restaurant's rear as though it's about to hitch the kitchen for a ride to Jackson, Miss. The newly renovated restaurant features handsome brick walls, the original wooden depot doors and a modern bar at the rear. It's an attractive space, though not a particularly large one.
After having lunch at Lola, I could tell why my friends enjoyed the place so much. The prices are friendly, with sandwiches hovering around $9, soups between $4 and $6, lunch specials below $10 and the enormous Cobb-oose salad tipping the scales at $10.25.
The portions are generous, especially considering the prices. Ample sandwiches, many served on thick, fresh focaccia, are two-handful affairs. Half sandwiches served with bowls of soup also are available. The satisfying Bostonian is a combination of turkey, bacon, avocado, provolone and sun-dried tomato aioli. The Hot Mess sandwich is aptly titled, with gooey, house-made pimiento cheese piled on top of grilled Chisesi ham, dill pickles, lettuce and tomatoes. The Depot is a grilled chicken sandwich dressed with coleslaw, mayonnaise and cheese but its house-made barbecue sauce gets lost. The side salads are overdressed.
Lola makes pleasing soups, and two are offered daily. A chicken and artichoke option satisfied on a cold day, and a rich, creamy combination of wild mushrooms and goat cheese was a hearty standout.
On Friday and Saturday evenings, Lola becomes a different restaurant, with white tablecloths and more refined fare. Cocktails are generous, although an old fashioned turned out to be disappointingly sweet. A perfect martini made up for that.
An appetizer of cochon de lait ravioli with wild mushrooms started the evening nicely. Salads are elegant and portioned like the lunch versions. The Lola salad, with mixed greens, blue cheese, candied pecans and cranberry vinaigrette, was lovely, even as it towered over the plate. The kitchen will split salads if requested, which is a good option.
Entrees at Lola aim for rustic sophistication and succeed. Rockefeller risotto with spinach, Herbsaint, Parmesan and fried oysters was a joy. Falling-off-the-bone tender Berkshire pork osso buco, paired with root vegetables and sweet collard greens, lived up to its $26 price tag. One night's Gulf fish special, a nicely cooked flounder with crawfish stuffing and satsuma beurre blanc, also hit the mark.
After a few visits to Lola, I feel like I don't find myself on the Northshore often enough. The next time I have a little cabin fever and a tank full of gas, I wouldn't be surprised to find myself making tracks to Old Covington.