When I moved to lower Highland two decades ago, the closest restaurants were My Brothers' Bar and La Loma — but you wouldn't walk to either after dark. Now this neighborhood is the hot, hot LoHi, with streets safe enough to walk at all hours and an abundance of cool joints to choose from. But from the moment it opened seven years ago, after moving over from Platt Park, my go-to spot has been Lola Mexican Fish House. (In fact, I went there twice on Sunday: for brunch and for Robby Peoples, the band that packed the place in the afternoon.)
When we were compiling our list of the Ten Best Neighborhood Restaurants last week, we parsed the differences between a destination restaurant and a restaurant. Lola happens to be both. And now people have a new reason to go there: a new chef.
Founding chef/co-owner Jamey Fader, now culinary director of Big Red F, announced the hire yesterday on Facebook: "Honored and proud to announce Sharif Villa Cruz as the new chef of my beloved Lola."
Born and raised in Mexico City, Cruz moved to Summit County when he was thirteen years old and graduated from the Colorado Mountain College Culinary Institute. He's worked with David Welch at Foodheadz, Troy Guard at TAG, and Duane Walker at Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar — but the most important experience might have been his time cooking with his grandmother, because he promises to bring authentic Mexican cooking to the Denver dining scene.
And he has plenty of people cheering him on, including Lola's most recent chef, Kevin Grossi, who posted this in response to the news: "Congrats, chef! You're going to do great there."