When Lola moved from its first home at 1469 South Pearl Street, where it had opened in 2002, into the former Olinger Mortuary complex in 2005, it marked the start of Lower Highland turning from a quiet backwater to the hot-hot dining neighborhood of LoHi. And now, almost fourteen years later, Lola is getting ready to turn up the heat with a major renovation.
The original vision for Lola was inspired by chef/entrepreneur Dave Query's visits to Mexico; founding chef Jamey Fader realized that vision with upscale, innovative fare that incorporated flavors, ingredients and cooking methods from across that country. And, of course, there was that open deck with a stunning view of downtown, where you could sip equally stunning margaritas.
Over the years, as the neighborhood changed, Lola did, too. The downstairs became an in-demand special-events space, BeLola. (This restaurant could be the go-to place in Denver for bridal showers.) The deck was enclosed, even as LoHi's exploding growth took much of its view, with a raw bar joining the lineup. More coastal dishes were added, as were the words "Coastal Mexican" to the Lola name.
And now Lola is changing again, with a major renovation and a general "kick in the ass,” says Query, founder of the Big Red F Restaurant Group, which owns Lola as well as the Jax Fish House locations, the West End Tavern, the Post Brewing Co. spots, Centro, and Zolo Grill, which just celebrated its 25th anniversary in Boulder. Fader, who'd become the culinary director for Big Red F, left to join the Marczyk Fine Foods family late last year; Jen Broyles, who helped open the original Lola, has moved from company-wide duties to focus on the restaurant full time.
"Jen found this location in the Highlands thirteen years ago at a time when there was nothing here," recalls Query. "She came into work that day on Pearl Street and said, ‘I found our new location, let's go, pack this shit up.’ Jenny has been at the root of Lola since the beginning. Having her in the house as a managing partner is a dream. With her vision in the front of the house, and the plans we have for the kitchen, it's going to be a fabulous next decade for LOLA."
Kari Whitman, a longtime Query friend who has design offices in Los Angeles and New York, will head the remodel. She recently opened an office in Boulder, where she plans to move her business. And again, Query's trips to Mexico are providing the inspiration.
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“I've probably seen a hundred sunsets on the Baja Peninsula," says Query, who's traveled there frequently with wife Dana Faulk Query. "If there is time to go anywhere, we usually go there. A few years ago, more and more friends began moving to Baja and Dana and I started spending more time in that sweet zone. There’s something rustic and true and grounded about Baja that doesn't happen anywhere else, at least nowhere else I've been to yet. And more and more, coming back to Lola, it seemed she had lost a few of her dance moves. So, I called up Kari to see about giving LOLA a new do — something sassy and fresh, but not dumbly over-designed and wrought with predictable design elements.”
Instead, Whitman says, expect "raw organic finishes mixed with the breezy cool colors that reflect the oceans’ flow. Earthy, calm and rapid, you will be taken to another place in mind and palette."
Work has already begun on the project, which involves moving the front doors from the corner of Boulder and 16th Street to the middle of 16th, where the Olinger chapel doors were located. That first booth by the bar will go, too, and the entire dining room opened up. But Lola still plans to party — and show off some of those dance moves — on Cinco de Mayo, before closing on May 13 for a fast, final construction push.
The revamped Lola is slated to debut on May 21, and soon after will add lunch to the lineup. In the meantime, the restaurant is open seven days a week, starting at 4 p.m., at 1575 Boulder Street. For more information, go to loladenver.com or call 720-570-8686.