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Parking: free lot

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When I was in culinary school, I met a woman whose dream was to skip the harried life of the restaurant kitchen and instead open a takeout store that served gourmet fare to harried work people. I knew it was only a matter of time before Orlando jumped on the trend and, sure enough, Lola's Gourmet to Go opened. I swept in for a last-minute dessert for a party and Mrs. Wattle's carrot cake ($3 a slice) – rich, moist cake packed with carrots and covered with cream-cheese icing – was enough to bring me back several times since.

Lola's has a sincere, quaint neighborhood feel, and I like it. But they are disorganized, especially when it comes to their menu, which continues to change daily, though they've experimented with other approaches. This is clearly still a work in progress.

During the day, an assortment of sandwiches and soup is available and most of what I've tried is pretty good, such as the tuna on a croissant ($5.75) packed with dried fruit and roasted nuts. The tuna was flavorful, but the croissant tasted less than fresh and didn't complement a haystack of alfalfa sprouts. Spinach and leek quiche, a regular lunch item, was a substantial portion of savory pie, flecked with vegetables and tinged with nutmeg. My favorite soup was white bean with tomato salsa ($4.25), a thin bean potage with orzo, fresh tomato, sharp onion and whole basil.

There are usually at least four choices for dinner, including a fish, chicken, red meat and vegetarian option. There is no particular cuisine style, so entrees are pulled from all over the map, from Bohemian tilapia to Tuscan chicken to Chinese stir-fry. The vegetable enchiladas ($8.95) were astoundingly fresh, and the side of carrots with basil and orange sauce ($2.50) was delicious.

Be warned that the dinners can easily add up: A whole lasagna may serve 6 to 8 people, but it'll set you back $42.95. Kudos to Lola's for trying something new, but she needs to connect with her inner chef, a job that entails more organization, resourcefulness and consistency.

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Price: $$
Payment Type: Amex, Discover, Master Card, Visa

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