At This New Smithfield Cantina, Every Day is Día de los Muertos

Lola’s Lounge brings the spirits of Mexico to Northern Rhode Island

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It was a Tuesday when I took a friend to go try Lola’s Lounge, a new cantina sandwiched between Rocco’s and Thai Cafe in Smithfield. Nothing screams Tuesday quite like tacos, and we were excited to reconnect with the owners, the dynamic husband-and-wife team behind Skyline in Providence. Michael and Jodi Mota had just opened the restaurant, named after their daughter, in mid-August. “It’s inspired by the Mexican holiday Día de Muertos, or Day of the Dead,” the couple explains. The theme saturates both the indoor and outdoor spaces: Inside, you’re greeted with moody red lighting, black crystal chandeliers, Latin beats from a DJ booth, and intricate, colorful wall murals. The patio, where my friend and I were seated, is equally festive with red umbrellas, bistro lights, potted palm trees, and a Mayan fountain crowned with a sugar skull. Even the waitstaff, who flitted between socially distant tables, sported vibrant, patterned masks to match.

Before reading through the food menu, we took a peek at the drinks – a variety of fun cocktails and an imported beer list. We settled on margaritas – nothing pairs with tacos quite like tequila – and while my friend got the Clásica (tequila, lime juice, orange liqueur, agave), I ordered the Frozen Sugar Skull Margarita with its adorably kitschy mug that ultimately won over my second choice, the jalapeño-spiced Mexican Mule.

As we nursed our drinks – made strong, but we’re not complaining! – we assembled our meal, which we’d decided to go all-out on: app, entree, and dessert, not including the complimentary chips, guac, and salsa (my friend’s favorite). The menu boasts Mexican classics like Elote (corn, mayo, chili powder, queso cotija) and fusions like Jodi’s rec of Tortas de Cangrejo (crab cakes with avocado salsa and chipotle aioli) or La Granja Burger layered with a sunny side egg, queso, bacon, and guac.

We started with the coconut shrimp, which were extremely crisp-fried, topped with pineapple salsa, and had our tongues tingling from the mango chile glaze for dipping. Next, we both ordered two tacos since #TacoTuesday meant each was only $3. My friend tried the chicken and shrimp, while I had the more adventurous BBQ pulled pork and Mahi-Mahi varieties; I appreciated that, true to tradition, they were garnished with only raw onion and cilantro, though if we had ordered the full-priced options they’d feature more complex toppings like relish or chipotle crema. The tacos were served with light, fluffy rice mixed with veg and pinto beans dusted with cotija cheese, both of which we polished off with enthusiasm.

Drinks drained and waistbands strained, we were contemplating ending the meal there when Jodi brandished a final course we couldn’t resist: Lola’s Dessert Platter. If you’re imagining a typical dessert sampler, you’d be wrong; this featured four full-sized portions of their tres leches cake, fried ice cream, cheesecake, and – our personal favorite – cinnamon-and-sugar coated churros we used as delicious vessels to scoop up both chocolate and strawberry sauces.

When we left, Lola’s was transforming into its nighttime persona as “The Dance Floor DJs” spun upbeat Latin beats and the changing colored lights grew more noticeable in the dark. Between the drinks, the food, and the music – it didn’t feel like just any dinner, it was a fiesta.

Lola’s Lounge & Cantina55 Douglas Pike, Smithfield

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