After celebrating a monumental ten years in LoHi earlier this year, Lola has become one of the staples in the Denver restaurant scene. Passing by, it's easy to forget how good it really is. I'm here to tell you it's time to give Lola a fresh look. A crowd pleaser every time, the food is always on point, forever a clutch brunch option.
Lola just finished a slight rebranding from "Costal Cuisine" to "Mexican Fish House" in an effort to keep up with the Joneses of the 'hood and keep its concept fresh. Expect Latin preparations of seasonal sea creatures and shellfish with inspiration from Oaxaca, the Yucatan peninsula, Baja, Veracruz, and the Northern Pacific coast of Mexico. Your standard breakfast staples like Benedicts and omelets just got elevated. Brunch is available Saturday and Sunday from 10 to 2 p.m., and as an added bonus on Sundays, live music starts at 2:30, so if you happen to catch the tail end of service, make it an all day affair and stay for a show. Free valet parking is only available at dinnertime, so finding a space at other times can tedious.
Whether you sit at the double-sided bar on the enclosed patio or inside with views of the open kitchen, the atmosphere at Lola is electric, always buzzing and just a good vibe all around. One of the OGs of the Highlands food scene, Lola was hip before they were even trying to be. The new livelier interior features weird-West, almost Steampunk wall art interspersed with food prints, photographs and paintings that add visual interest without distracting from the company at hand. As you walk in, you are greeted by an excerpt from a Pablo Neruda poem which loosely translates to "the Mermaid and the Drunk," so you can see where they're going with the new, edgier theme.
If you're in desperate need of a hair of the dog, you've come to the right place. Voted one of the Top 5 Places to Drink Tequila in North America by Food & Wine magazine, Lola's not messing around on the beverages. The menu is extensive, with playful flavors and plenty of options to persuade guests to booze. I started with an horchata, and despite the addition of anise, it was pretty sweet, until our guacamole arrived to cut the flavor. We were talked into to switching to mimosas, opting for the seasonal carrot-ginger and the "snazberry," a hybrid sangria-mimosa, both on point.
If the devil is in the details, the devil may as well be dining with you. Start with the signature guacamole cart and you'll be treated to some of the freshest, creamiest avocados in all the land served with house made chips, leaving a lingering salty lime flavor. Prepared tableside, the mixture can be adjusted to your tastes. We let the cart master work his magic without being fussy. The plate is then branded with Chimayo chile powder, named after the town in Mexico from where it originates. The lobster deviled eggs from the cold bar were another solid starter, with generous portions of lobster meat resting on a decorative spread of cilantro coulis -- a thick puree of green goodness.
Sticking with one of my tried and true brunch staples, I ordered the shrimp and grits Benedict, which is actually not grits at all, but a green-chile polenta cake topped with a decadent succotash of peppers and veggies, perfectly poached eggs, and a chipotle hollandaise. I'm often suspicious of small shrimp, which more often than not taste like overly fishy mush. But rest assured, these had the perfect substance. The presentation was delicate and refined, so there was no way to overeat -- quite the opposite of your typical rich Southern plate.
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My roommate opted for the much touted Lolaburguesa, and after our mediocre burger-for-breakfast experience last week, we were hoping for a redo. Yep, this is the hangover cure you're looking for. So succulent it melts in your mouth, the meat is a combination of spare rib, chuck and prime that was so juicy it barely stayed together long enough to take a bite. You could taste the quality in the ingredients, from the tomato-bacon jam to the crispy onions, pickled chiles, and queso, which could be upgraded with a fried egg, bacon, sautéed mushrooms or all of the above. Both entrees had textures and flavors that kept it interesting and enjoyable for our taste buds, including their house-made habanero hot sauce. A family recipe of one of the line cooks, it's not for the faint of heart. They'll be switching over to a fall menu the week of October 25, so get your last taste of summer in while you can.