Lelolai Bakery & Cafe

27 07 2010

Lelolai's Bakery & Cafe

So my buddy Scotty is always checking into this Lelolai place on Foursquare and i’m like what the hell is it? I see he’s also the mayor of the place, so I get that he’s a fan, lol. I had some free time on my hands, so I decided to take a trip to W. 25th and see what the fuss was about. The weather was a far cry from the 100+ days we were having, so I was actually happy to be walking around and not sweating about a liter a minute, haha.  I come upon Lelolai, which is a couple doors left of Phnom Penh, and a couple doors right of now defunct nightclub, Moda.

I usually try to go to spots for lunch around 2 or 3pm. One because I get up later than the 9 to 5’ers and I have to get SOME work done before I eat, and two, I have this love/hate relationship with people, so I hate to be crowded.  Walking in around 3, there was only one other customer there and no one eating in (SCORE!), so i’d have the whole place to myself. Right when you walk in, you are greeted with the bakery counter (maybe this is why they put the bakery part first in the name), so you want to just stand there and oogle at all of the confectionery offerings before you even remember why you came there in the first place!  Making your way down the counter, you see the menu for the cafe portion of the business.  It’s not very big, but sometimes being good at a couple things is better than being ok at a lot of things. I really like empanadas, so I immediately gravitated toward those for my appetizer, not even thinking about the size of the cuban sandwich.  I figured, if I was too full after the empanada, I could always just take the sandwich home and enjoy it all over again, right?

I go for the beef empanada and remembered my coaching from Scotty and got the cuban. He also told me that the Tropi-Cola is to die for, but more on that later.  The older guy at the counter (puerto rican I’m assuming), asked me if I wanted the empanada first, then he’d bring the sandwich…. I was taken aback.  Almost everywhere I go, I’m always getting the appetizer and the meal at the same time…. at RESTAURANTS!  So imagine my surprise going to a cafe/bakery and they are asking me if I want something first. I was a fan already!  The empanada was good and basically what you’ve come to expect from ground beef in a fried shell.  Meat could have been a bit more flavorful, and the shell itself had been sitting for a minute, so it wasn’t as crunchy/flaky as it could have been, but this is also the game you play when you come for lunch at 3pm, AFTER the rush.  Overall though, it was a good starter.

Sitting in the dining area, I noticed that the place was clean, there was lots of sunlight from the huge storefront window, multiple fans to keep the place cool, and all the furniture was sunbeam metal patio furniture. Maybe it was the flood of sunshine coming in, but I actually thought that was kind of cool because I HATE eating outside. Too many things to contend with (bugs, wind blowing ur stuff away, ants, etc), and I just like to eat my food and enjoy my conversation.  So eating on patio furniture w/ the fans providing a breeze, being close to the window bathed in the sun made me feel like I was on a patio. Best of both worlds…. POW!

An extremely polite young man brought me my cuban, and I couldn’t wait to dig in.  For those of you who don’t know, the cuban sandwich (also called a Cuban pressed sandwich, or a mixto), “is a variation of a ham and cheese originally created in cafes catering to Cuban workers either in Cuba or in the Cuban immigrant communities of Florida, most likely Ybor City in Tampa, Florida. Later on, Cuban immigrants and expatriates brought it to Miami where it is also still very popular. The sandwich is made with ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard, and sometimes salami on Cuban bread.” – From Wikipedia.  At Lelolai, this is called a “miami cuban.” I opted for the regular one which had ham, swiss cheese, pulled pork, lettuce, tomato and mayo (sorry to the fundamentalists!).

Cuban Sandwich

Digging in, I thought the sandwich had a good overall flavor profile… the bread had that good soft vs crunchy texture (hard bread and the roof of my mouth do not get along), the ham and cheese did its thing, and the pulled pork was nice and stringy.  I never trust a pulled pork sandwich that has big hunks of pork (attention to detail is a must!).  I killed it pretty quicky, and at the end it was just the right amount of food after my empanada.  Then it was all washed down with the Tropi-Cola, which bills itself as champagne cola or something… That was the most curious name i’ve ever seen for a can of pop and I even had to ask the guy at the counter if it had alcohol in it, since I recently stopped drinking (told you I was serious). It was a weird taste.  Imagine a coke/pepsi, but sweeter, fizzier, and this strange taste I can’t quite identify (vanilla + something….). I guess you’ll just have to try it for yourself. Overall a great experience.  I invite you to do the same… Look for the video after the grades…..

Grades:

Atmosphere: B+

Patio furniture inside was cool (whether they meant it to be like that or  not). Puerto Rican music playing in the background and the photos of PR on the wall made it feel like you weren’t on w. 25th anymore

Service: A+

You can always get an A if you just give me what I paid for, but asking me if I wanted my empanada as an appetizer and how courteous the young man was that brought me the food gave it the +

Food: B+

Beef in the empanada and the pulled pork could have been flavored a little better, but this may be how it is served in their home country, i dunno.  Food menu could have been a bit broader, but again…. More isn’t always better.

Cleanliness: B

This would have been an A, but when I went into the bathroom to wash my hands, I gave a cpl squirts, washed, and realized (after a strange feeling) that it wasn’t soap I was scrubbing with, it was hand sanitizer!  No soap in the bathroom.  Good thing I didn’t shit in my hand then, hahahaha!

Price: B

Empanada was just over $2 and the cuban was like $7, so it’s not unreal, but would thought I’d have more meat on my sammy. But keeping in mind that this is not a chain/franchise, and the meat prob isn’t created in a labratory, i’m cool with that. Viva la Inependents!

Overall grade: B+/A-

Great environment, good food, nice people… what more do you need?

And now for the fun part:

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