Lalola Bar de Tapas is a family owned and operated food and wine bar on the corner of Mason and Pacific in North Beach. Located on the famous Powell-Mason cable car line, it's an easily accessible place to meet up with friends after work. I visited last week for the first time for happy hour and dinner. I was a bit nervous to pick a place that doesn't take any reservations but luckily we were able to beat the crowd and get a prime window table.
The menu is a your standard tapas menu with a few exciting extras. The dishes come in three sizes, Pincho (single bit portion, so you don't have to share), Tapa (a few bites, can be shared) and Racion (a big tapa, so you can happily share) but not all dishes are available in the multiple sizes. It was nice to have the choice in sizes of the dishes as my fiance always complains he is hungry after tapas, so it's hard to get him to try this sort of place. Last week we tried the, Madrid-style Tapas Bar Fries, Mixed green Salad with olive oil vinaigrette, Breaded zucchini sticks, Mushrooms in garlic and white wine, Fried Calamari with aioli, Crab-Stuffed Piquillo Peppers with bechamel and tomato and Shelled Garlic Pimenton Shrimp. The food was OK. I did not like the crab-stuffed piquillo peppers and was underwhelmed with the other selections. The food was esthetically pleasing but the taste just wasn't there. I have a feeling we ordered some of the boring dishes but our server didn't help us to choose or recommend the dishes of the house. Next time I come, I will order the Paella and some of the larger more exciting dishes like the Beer-Braised Stew and Moorish Style Pork Skewers and hope for the better. However, on the flip side, LaLoLa does have a great wine list with some delicious wines you don't see everyday. Plus they have great happy hour specials with $3 white or red sangria and $3 Stella on tap.
The best perk to Lalola is the 1.5 validated parking in the Vallejo Garage, such a treat for a restaurant in North Beach. My first visit to Lalola as underwhelming, but I'm looking forward to my next visit, so this cute neighborhood gem can redeem itself.