Goodman Community Center | Lola's Hi/Lo Lounge presents upscale…

Lola's Hi/Lo Lounge presents upscale nightlife

As one of Madison's new nighttime hot pots, Lola's Hi/Lo Lounge curates a vintage vibe.

January 26, 2024 |
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Lola's Hi/Lo Lounge's space on North Sherman Avenue in Madison, Wisconsin is moody but welcoming, with a 1960s feel and a record collection to match the era.
Lola’s Hi/Lo Lounge plays on the hi-fi bar experience, with a ’60s vibe. The décor is inspired from 1960s styles, and the music they play is all from that era.

By Amie Hoag, Eastside News

The owners of the north side’s newest restaurant and bar want you to feel at home when you come in, and they’ve done such a great job curating the vibe, you may never want to leave.

Lola’s Hi/Lo Lounge opened Nov. 7 in the former Jacobsen Bros. Meats & Deli at 617 N. Sherman Ave. The space is moody but welcoming, with a 1960s feel and a record collection to match the era.

“People can expect to feel really warm whenever they walk in, which is something we wanted to establish — a really warm and inviting atmosphere,” Matt Gerding said.

He co-owns Lola’s with his wife Tori Gerding, who also owns the Ancora coffee shops, and with Evan Dannells, chef and owner of Cadre. Gerding previously was president of FPC Live, the music promotion company.

Lola's Hi/Lo Lounge DJ equipment
Lola's DJ booth and vintage record collection.

The ambiance of the space feels up-scale, with custom light fixtures above the bar, cozy booths and acoustic treatments that make the impressive hi-fi system sound great even when the place is packed — which it has been nearly every night since they opened.

On the menu, created by Dannells, is what Gerding described as “global tavern food.” Dumplings and noodle dishes, as well as burgers, cracker-crust pizza and panko-breaded cheese curds. Drinks are unpretentious, with beers served in cans and a few classic cocktails on the menu.

“(The food) helps play into the high-low lounge feel, which is hi-fi sound and high-end finishes but kind of a low-brow approach to hospitality,” Gerding explained. “We’ve got cheap canned beers and pizza and burgers — you know, things that have a broad appeal and are really approachable.”

The idea for Lola’s started during the COVID-19 pandemic, when Dannells invited the Gerding family to Cadre for dinner.

“(Evan) had this inherent need to cook for people and couldn’t do it,” Gerding said. “We’d go down and have the restaurant to ourselves and he would smother us in dumplings and all kinds of incredible foods, and then we just started brainstorming together.”

Part of the inspiration for Lola’s came from a favorite bar of the Gerdings, Tom Cat Lounge in St. Nazianz, near where Tori Gerding grew up. It’s owned by Lola Otto, 87, who became the namesake of Lola’s Hi/Lo Lounge. They combined the vintage ’60s feel of that place with the Japanese concept of listening bars, called Kissa.

Gerding is working on establishing a calendar of local DJs to play music. Visitors can expect to hear Motown, soul, jazz and classic tunes from the ’60s. Gerding pulled from his experience in the music industry to create a top-of-the-line sound treatment for the space. K-13 insulation lines the ceilings and, there are plenty of soft surfaces to dampen the sound.

Lola’s is open 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and 4 p.m. to midnight other days of the week. It is closed on Tuesday.

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