John Curtas is …

An Open Letter to Lola Pokorny

Shrimp etouffee

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Lola's gummy, gloppy etouffee - tasting only of cornstarch and black pepper

Dear Lola,

The following video is lamer than lame (but also, in its own way, sort of charming).

However, we at ELV assure you it is no lamer than your gummy, gloppy, cornstarch-y, one note, shrimp etouffee, served over poorly cooked rice.

Please watch it, take notes, buy a Paul Prudhomme cookbook, and start doing justice to this bayou classic.

Because, next to you, no one wants Lola’s to be a success more than we do. But ELV fears that if your food doesn’t improve, you’ll soon go the way of the last two operators in this Holsum Lofts space.

And then we would be sad. As would all of downtown Vegas.

Sincerely,

ELV

PS: Your jambalaya could use a serious upgrade too.

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26 Responses to An Open Letter to Lola Pokorny

  • Had dinner here Saturday night and completely agree with you! The rice was like paste but the paste would have had much more flavor. Extremely overcooked shrimp, barely lukewarm gumbo. Too bad since we wanted to like it!

  • I love the cheesy little video. Those kids are awesome. Fortunately I haven’t eaten at Lola’s and definitely won’t go until you give it a better review! Rock on!

  • It was a video masterpiece, not cheesy in the least. So much so, I have been inspired to open my own cajun resto in the philippines. Now if I can find a local source of andouille that doesn’t contain carabao…….

  • ELV the Destroyer of Worlds (and restaraunts)!

  • How can someone (Lola’s) invest a lot of money into a restaurant and not pay attention to customer’s satisfaction? They seem careless, like they want to fail. What insane person is operating this place? Maybe they need guidance; someone to teach them the basics. A wise man (Chef Eric Klein) once told me, “simplicity is key”. Some of the best advice I’ve ever received because it can be applied to all facets in life, not just cooking.

  • John, you are one of the only people in planet downtown Las Vegas who has the cajones to call a spade ‘a spade.’ I commend you.
    Bon appetite – A

  • I agree, to a certain extent, with your unminced advice to Lola. I’ve eaten at Lola’s about ten times for lunch; another half dozen dinners. The food is unusually uneven–great one time; average the next; and a couple poor meals. The chargrilled oysters, oyster po-boy, and catfish platter have never failed to deliver. But I had a catfish po-boy with one slim, skimpy piece of the inexpensive fish–that left me hungry, and pissed, to be honest. The gumbo has always been at least a B+; but the jambalaya is usually quite tasteless. I think Lola (Beth) is an earnest businesswoman and restaurant operator, but you are correct when you opine that this place could become the third time loser in the Holsum space. I SO want Lola’s to succeed. Laissez les bon temps roule.

  • Lola’s should be a prime candidate for Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares…

    It needs serious help.

  • Greetings John,
    I hesitate to respond to your open letter, but feel the need to lay the ground work to what Lola’s is really all about. And to hopefully have you stop giving me a backhanded “hope you succeed” message. Also, to allow all who follow your post to know why I am the third restaurant in this space.

    The Charleston Grill was owned and operated by Eugene Kessler, a dear friend of Jeff LaPour’s. Eugene did as I understand a great job with the Deli and had a good following. Eugene died! He did not fail.

    Bistro Divino: Two very successful business men and hard workers took over Charleston Grill to keep the Deli going. They decided after a while to change the theme. Both having great businesses of their own, did not have the time to babysit a restaurant. Decided it was time to close.

    Lola’s:
    Lola’s is a name sake dream. I didn’t want to be an 80 year old women tooling in my garden one day and wonder if I could have been successful at running my own restaurant. I took my own risk, jumped in and got wet. Here I am, doing what I love to do. Entertain and Cook.
    I never expected to have everyone love what I do, but I never expected to see good or bad plastered all over the internet either. This part is all new to me.

    What’s most important and what gave me the biggest push to open Lola’s was the fact that people needed jobs. Perhaps, I thought, I could be a possitive impact on our community. This is what I could contribute. Jobs!
    I currently employ 15 people who did not have jobs until October 2009, when Lola’s hired them. So when you decide to contribute your opinion, I would ask that you remember those that are employed by the establishments you visit.

    In closing, I do not give anyone the power to make me or break me, this Lola’s is mine and did not open to fail. I will continue to strive to give my best and to help this community.

    Sincerely,
    Lola

  • Hopefully these people still have jobs in October 2010. Maybe then Lola will recieve the medal she feels she deserves.

  • After reading Lolas reply, I would have to say ELV is a true piece of $hit that gets off on the failures of others. The orgasm isnt quite as good when you can bathe in someone elses pain. (FOOD VAMPIRE).

    A sad excuse for a food critic (or a crew in search for free meals collecting thier pizzo for written protection) in a town that really doesnt need one.

  • Dear Sir
    Read what you had to say about Lola’s, and as a Chef I find the food to be one of the best in Las Vegas and I have eaten at what some would call down home or southern Food and they can’t touch Lola’s. As for ” Lola’s gummy, gloppy etouffee – tasting only of cornstarch and black pepper” I think your way off base with that.

    Lola your doing a great job and keep up the good work, THE BEST FOOD IN LAS VEGAS BY FAR.

  • Boy, cant wait to run down to Lola’s for a taste of that food now that I know the reason it is open is not to attain food greatness, but to provide minimum wage jobs to people.

    My suggestion: focus on improving your food or you will be looking for a J-O-B yourself Lola

    sacrebleu!

  • Fortunatley for all of us we have the rights to our own opinions.. As someone in the f&b industry we thrive on word of mouth.. Whether its the opinion of “experts” or the average person. I try new places because of good things that I’ve heard.. I send people to places because of the good things that I have experienced. What a great forum for anyone. the consumer as well as the busines to find out what people think. I’m less likely to tell any establishment abouit mediocre food/service directley, but let someone ask me.. the flood gates open. I think that Lola’s could use this information to help keep the doors open, unless they are independently wealthy, or can pay the rent with hopes and dreams and good intention.. If not, take at look at things and fix them.. it’s simple

  • While this open letter is a bit cruel, I hope Lola uses it as a wakeup call to improve the service and food at her restaurant. That is the best way to make sure she keeps people employed. Opening up a new restaurant in a terrible recession is a bold and brave move and Lola certainly has the culinary talent to make a restaurant successful. But with all business endeavors, it is the follow through that really matters. There is always room for improvement and no chef should ignore customer feedback.

    I agree with Vegas Vic about the pitiful portions of catfish. I like the overall smaller portions, but if the fish the main event of the dish there should be more of it.

  • I don’t want to sound like a pessimist but this place will see the demise by the end of the year-not because of the food-which I think is below average with liberal misuse of the word ‘Cajun”- but because of the location which has failed many other establishements in this location. ‘Chef Live” and ‘Bisto Divino” to name a few.

  • Do yo have to be so nasty? Why do you give advice and have to be so mean spirited? I’ve never heard of you, maybe that’s the way you are. You say you want Lola’s to keep her doors open, but seems like you want just the opposite. Your people skills could use a serious upgrade they’re lamer than lame. No charm going on there! The boiled crawfish at Lola’s the best!!!! If you love boiled crawfish this is the place to go Friday & Saturday only though.

  • Pam: ELV, not a charmer? Surely you understimate the man.

    Why I bet after dinner and drinks with him, he’d have you lying down faster than a bottle of screaming eagle.

  • To Pam: Well, yes, you have heard of me because you came to my website and cared enough to post a comment, so thanks for that.

    To Vegasdave: Thanks for the spirited defense of ELV, but he fears you overestimate his once seductive-but-now-fading powers of persuasion.

    To all who cared enough to write: It’s good to see such strong feelings on both sides of my opinions. It means we are growing up as a food/restaurant community, and better eating for everyone will be the result.

    To Lola: We wish you well, but also wish/hope you and your cooks start paying more serious attention to your recipes. ELV is not without considerable experience in these things (see: IBO Turkish and Mediterranean Restaurant and Bar (Whew!) and Paymon’s Mediterranean), and fear that, unless your Cajun/Creole food starts tasting like the real thing, Lola’s will be doomed — no matter your good intentions.

  • I have had a couple VERY satisfying meals at Lola’s recently…including last night. The gumbo was perfect; dark chocolate brown roux with a chunk of chicken, a cube of andouille and/or a sublime shrimp in every bite. My oyster po’ boy was the best–a half dozen perfectly fried plump ersters that I had to keep pushing back in, to keep them from falling out of the bread. My DC had a side salad, basic but good, and her red beans and rice were as good as my last Big Easy version at Coop’s Place. A couple Abita Purple Haze beers. Damn, I miss New Orleans. A great meal.

    Laissez les bon temps roule.

  • I wish I had looked for this web page BEFORE we went to Lola’s last night. The original post above was made in April, it is now July and it sounds as if NOTHING has changed, which means Lola isn’t LISTENING!!

    At 6:15pm on a Friday night, I should have gotten a “clue” when we walked in and there were TWO people in the restaurant eating. I should have gotten another clue when one of those two people sent his entree back after taking only one bite of it, complaining that the pasta was WAY overcooked.

    We ordered the Crawpuppies. The idea would be that there were crawfish in them….NOT. Not to mention the fact there were only three “puppies” about the size of an oversized ravioli for $6.00!

    My blackened chicken on alfredo noodles was immediately returned to the kitchen as well. The spices were so hot it was inedible. The alfredo sauce was the consistency of water and the noodles were overcooked.

    My husband’s gumbo was edible, but certainly not true to Louisiana. The Bantu word for okra is GUMBO. There was NO okra flavor to the roux and he was hard pressed to find more than one piece of okra. The sausage that was supposed to be in it was non-existent and the shrimp he did find was absolute MUSH!

    Skimpy portions, way overcooked food, definitely NOT the tastes of Louisiana……a SORE disappointment.

  • Just had lunch at Lola’s and either y’all don’t know fact one about great Louisiana cooking or Lola took your advice to heart and changed a whole lot of things. Granted we did not try the gumbo but the catfish, cheesy grits and crab cakes would make Paula Deen proud. Perhaps you are looking for a five star epicurean experience but I find Lola’s food just down home southern good and the staff delightful. Shame on y’all….not everyone has such a sophisticated palate. Lola’s is a breath of fresh air from the presentation of so many upscale “strip” restaurants.
    Kay Jackson, just an ole southern gal.
    Southern Detroit, that is.

  • I’ve been there a few times in recent months for etouffee and crabcakes. Thought the food was great, the prices were reasonable, and service was fine.

    If you want better, go to New Orleans. You might have to try 3-4 places in the french quarter before you find something as good.

  • John Curtas you watch too much food television and you are completely clouded by what you think you know,and what you heard on some cooking show. You do not know food. Your pallette is not sophisticated enough to be qualified as a food critic. You are a pretentious wannabe.

    You mentioned some show as a monitor for Lola’s as if reality tv is actually legit. You think Lola’s would be brought up to your standards by a celebrity chef? Just shows that you can’t offer critique, just hurtful words. Which expalins why you had to write your critique in the form of an open letter. It is so condescending, too. Why? Take notes? Rude.

    Lola’s ettouffe is a dark roux based classic. No corn starch. My advice to you would be to stop letting the media tell you how to think, and go to culinary school. Learn food. Learn what it takes to wake up every day and feed people. (food, not bullshit) Learn what it takes to just operate a restaurant on the daily. You taking too many liberties, my friend. You a lawyer who likes to go out to eat, but you also have a blog. You better learn the meaning of responsibility, and comminity, too. You gonna end up unhappy in the end. You already being 86′d from places, being alone sucks, bro.

    Get on the sunny side.

    Sam I is

  • Samantha,

    You can ‘learn about food’ only at culinary school? Total bullshit. Your argument blows about as much as Lolas’ food. Maybe Lola and the entire staff should join ELV and enter culinary school as well because they certainly don’t understand food either.

  • What argument? You and John Curtas both need to learn something from somewhere. Especially manners.

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