Let’s clear this up right now: I did not have to have CPR after eating at Lo-Lo’s. I think a couple of friends had to go lie down and breathe into a paper bag, though, after seeing the picture of my plate.
It’s hard to describe how delicious food can be that looks so unhealthy. I hadn’t had a piece of fried chicken in probably 10 years. I don’t add butter to anything anymore. I don’t drink sugary beverages. Yet when my waiter set the plate of fried chicken and waffles in front of me, I happily and without hesitation poured honey and Louisiana hot sauce over the whole thing and ate every bite. Not to mention the cheese grits on the side, which were under a half-inch layer of melted butter.
I had been anticipating this trip to Lo-Lo’s for two years. My son lives nearby and on two previous trips to Phoenix we weren’t able to make it happen. This time, I put it on my calendar. It was a priority.
To prepare me for the Lo-Lo’s experience, my son gave me a preview.
He told me to order either the sweet tea or the Red Kool Aid Drank but with some caution.”They’re as thick as a milkshake,” he said. “You’ll get your drink first, but don’t drink too much of it before your food comes. You’ll get addicted to the sugar after the first few sips and if you guzzle it, you’ll be too sick to eat.”
As for the food, he told me as a newbie I should definitely get the chicken and waffles. There are other things on the menu, but pay no attention to them. Chicken and waffle combinations make up three quarters of Lo-Lo’s menu. They have chicken. They have waffles. They have a little bit of chicken and a lot of waffles. They have a little bit of waffles with a lot of chicken. They have different parts of the chicken with different amounts of waffles.
How to eat my chicken and waffles? “Put the chicken right on top of the waffles, pour honey and hot sauce over the whole pile and eat it all mixed together,” he advised. He was talking to me like a quarterback in a huddle.
“And while I’m doing this, people aren’t stroking out in the tables around me?” I asked. I was ready to take one for the team. I was getting pretty excited about this meal.
We pulled into the parking lot and down the street I saw this billboard:
Is that Red Velvet Cake??? They have Red Velvet Cake, too?
I was scaring my son.
“Remember Mom, this isn’t just a theme restaurant. People who live here actually come here to eat because they want chicken and waffles. It’s like a regular restaurant.”
Did he think I was at Epcot or something? I knew that.
The restaurant was already crowded at 11 a.m. Lo-Lo’s is an unassumingly small brick building painted beige with red awnings. There was a small crowd of people out front waiting to be seated. It was a hot August day in Phoenix, so it was about 110 degrees, not counting the extra 10 degrees that came bouncing back up from the pavement. Everyone was huddled under a tent that was set up in front of the restaurant, where the hostess sat with a laptop computer, and where there was a water cooler, presumably so that none of us had a heat stroke. There’s some irony there: Keep the body healthy enough to get in the door and fill it with triple-digit grams of trans-fat.
We discovered that the hostess was from Youngstown, Ohio, my hometown, so we chatted with her and three guys who were working up a sweat trying to hit on her.
Once at our table, it took me a while to decide what to get, even though we’re talking about basically chicken and waffles. First I had to read the autographs of famous people on the walls around me. I know Shaq had been there, but I couldn’t find his name. Actually I couldn’t decipher any of the handwriting, so I gave up and concentrated on the menu.
My son had told me that as the menu items got heftier, they had more feminine names. I didn’t see that pattern; to me it was a blur of chicken and waffle combinations, with some catfish, cornbread and macaroni and cheese thrown in just to be polite.
There is the Lo-Lo’s, the KK’s, Baby Ray, Mama White’s, Nay-Nay’s, Toy-Toy, the Betty Boop, the Lil Amadi, the Tre-Tre, Kimbo, Baby C, Lil C, CJ’s, Lil Jay, Lil Steven and Phat Boy. Just to name a few.
Then it just gets crazy. There’s the Lo-Lo’s Famous Soul Food Platter: Three pieces of fried chicken smothered in gravy and onions with your choice of catfish or another fish, with two sides and cornbread.
There are Stupid Fries, french fries with chicken, gravy, onions, peppers and cheese on them.
There’s the relatively healthy Cool Bre Bre’s Chicken Salad, but even that has bacon in it.
There’s a dish called DVZ’s Hot Ghetto Mess and I triple-dog dare you to eat it. The menu description is unclear. I think the scary name says it all.
There’s a Phat Az’s Chicken Samich, which I wanted to order, just to encourage phonetic menuing. Also I feel the need to root for this Lo-Lo relation who got stuck with the nickname Phat Az.
(Yes, all the dishes on this menu reportedly are named after Lo-Lo’s family. Aunt Portia, Aunt Hattie, Chyna, Sakilae, Malaysia and Ivan, also have their own dishes.)
I finally settled on the Sheedah’s Special, “1 succulent breast & 1 wing, 1 delicious waffles” and I never looked back. I do look forward, however, to returning to Lo-Lo’s on my next visit to Phoenix. I think there’s a side of Stupid Fries and a piece of Sandy Sand’s Red Velvet Cake in my future.