The McGill Ghetto has two distinguishing characteristics: an abundance of expensive apartments that house wealthy students (‘McGill-ionaires’), and its absurdly close proximity to the hoppin’ St-Laurent bar scene. Yet, we propose that there is another feature of this neighbourhood that sets it apart from the rest. On Milton, in the heart of this self-proclaimed ‘student-ghetto’, sits Lola Rosa, the loveliest little vegetarian bistro we ever did see.
Lola Rosa is tucked in behind a golden wood-framed façade, and one’s eyes could easily pass over it from the sidewalk; as a result, it happens to be the cutest little haven of delicious and creative vegetarian cuisine (or vegan, if requested), frequented less by local students (in the summer) and more by young professionals. Oh, and during a recent visit, a troop of about eight monks (robes and all) dined with us at a nearby table. If this doesn’t give credibility to a restaurant, I don’t know what else could, apart from a review on SheDoesTheCity, of course. Ahem.
On this same early-summer evening, four friends and I sat along the large front window, where colourful, multi-shape cushions line the wooden benches, and each dining table is actually a converted, antique desk that contains still-functional drawers. Diners are encouraged to write notes, poems, love letters and comics on scraps of napkin or paper, and contribute to the dozens that can already be found within each table, providing subsequent guests with extraordinarily interesting pre-dinner reading material. Generally, Lola Rosa’s atmosphere is cozy and the décor faintly recalls a hippy-like, craft fair-vibe that tends to run throughout other vegetarian restaurants in the city.
By and large, Lola Rosa has the type of menu that people like myself (indecisive by nature) are literally unable to make a selection from, because everything just sounds so damn good. From their delectable daily house specials – apple-strawberry gazpacho ($4.25) and red pepper/eggplant/parmesan quiche ($11.50), for instance – to their chili ($11) and ragout ($11.50) dishes, I more or less fainted from the stress and exhaustion of it all. In the end, two friends and I settled on the soup and quiche specials (served with brown basmati rice and chickpea salad), while our other two co-diners ordered the hemp burgers ($12), which were huge, flavourful and surprisingly moist. Other notable dishes include the three-cheese lasagna ($12.50 – served with Caesar salad) and vegetable curry ($11.50).
Now, opinionated food-based proclamations are not my thing, but my tablemates and I also happened to share a plate of Lola’s Nachos ($12), and in all honesty, these were the best nachos I’ve ever had. Delicious, crispy tortilla chips arrived at our table, piled high with black beans, huge avocado pieces, green peppers, onions, tomatoes, mozzarella, and big dollops of sour cream and salsa. Yes, I know that doesn’t sound revolutionary, but I will insist here that it was unforgettably delicious. And I eat a lot of nachos.
The home-cooked quality of the meals combined with the rich list of ingredients that Lola Rosa’s chefs employ really gives the food an uncommon remarkability. As well, the predominance of Mexican and traditional Canadian-themed dishes gives the menu a really fun twist, and of course, a certain level of difficulty for those of us who just want to order some of everything.
Lola Rosa also offers bicycle delivery within the McGill Ghetto and lower Plateau neighbourhoods, with a great soup + meal ($14) delivery special to boot!
545 rue Milton
~ Tyler Yank