- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Where to watch tonight’s game? We say Lola’s Barracks Bar and Grill on Capitol Hill. Above the long, well-stocked dark-wood bar are five flat-screen televisions set in bronze picture frames.

In other words, you can easily enjoy a Dogfish Head pale ale or a refreshing Smithwick’s - both on tap - while watching, hopefully, many a goal by Alex Ovechkin and crew.

In fact, you don’t even have to sit at the bar to see the screens because Lola’s is so diminutive that no table is more than a few feet from the bar.

Yes, it’s a tight - and almost too-familiar - squeeze, with most of the tables being communal in this warmly lit, dark-paneled and pretty loud dining room.

Quieter is the small patio - delightful on cool spring evenings - which features a couple of tables, albeit without a view of the television screens.

The real strong point for Lola’s, though, is the service. Few places in the city - even the high-brow joints - can rival the speed and friendliness of this bar and grill. The waiters here treat their gig as a real profession, not just as a means to a different end.

Special orders are accommodated - with a smile - and beer orders (draft choices are varied and numerous) are delivered with the speed of a hockey puck bouncing off the boards. Service, simply put, hits that sweet-spot intersection of friendly, speedy and professional.

If only the same could be said for the food, which, for the most part is on the greasy, salty side (not necessarily a bad thing for bar food, but here, it’s taken a dash of oil and pinch of salt too far). Take the calamari: The lightly battered squid, served with marinara sauce and a lemon wedge, was virtually covered in salt and dripping with oil.

The Caesar salad, too, was disappointing. While the romaine was fresh and the dressing homemade, the croutons were tasteless and clearly straight from a box.

Better were the Black Angus burger - perfectly cooked to order - served with a side of tasty but too-greasy pommes frites, and the Baja fish tacos, grilled tortillas wrapped around grilled mahi-mahi and cilantro slaw and also served with pommes frites. (You also can get the mahi-mahi flash-fried, but we didn’t dare go with the fried version, not after the calamari.)

Also a pleasant surprise was the Lola’s tort, a tasty pastry with lemon, pine nuts, almonds and powdered sugar. It’s sophisticated and not exactly what you’d expect on a bar menu.

In the end, it comes down to expectations. The food at Lola’s probably is better than that at 90 percent of bars out there. It’s just that with everything else being top-notch, our expectations were higher.

Overall, however, we give Lola’s a big thumbs-up for a great dining experience: The service, ambience and drinks were top-notch; the food was decent, if not memorable.

RESTAURANT: Lola’s Barracks Bar and Grill, 711 Eighth St. SE; 202/547-5652, www.lolasbarracksbarandgrill.com

HOURS: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday

PRICES: Starters, $4 to $10; entrees, $10 to $20; desserts, $6

CREDIT CARDS: All major credit cards

PARKING: Limited street parking

ACCESS: Wheelchair accessible

METRO: Eastern Market on the Blue and Orange lines

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