Looking to offer a fresh spin on tacos, Lola 55 is a new fast-casual restaurant with big ambitions. Its executive chef/partner Andrew Bent cooked locally at Puesto and Tiger!Tiger! and recently worked alongside Noma’s René Redzepi at the Nordic chef’s Tulum pop-up; in his development of Lola 55, the chef also trained with Luis Arellano at Criollo in Oaxaca, Mexico. Bent, who spent several years with Tender Greens, says he will continue the eatery’s practice of working directly with farms, fishermen and ranchers to maintain his menu’s quality and accessibility. With the goal of delivering “inspired food at affordable prices”, the restaurant’s five-inch tacos will range on average from three to five dollars.
Founder Frank Vizcarra also has a Tender Greens connection. Born in Tijuana, Vizcarra played professional soccer with the San Diego Sockers before entering a business training program that has led to a 35-year career in the restaurant industry. Rising to the executive level within in a global fast-food company, Vizcarra joined Tender Greens as an investor and consultant in 2009. Still acting in advisory role, he was instrumental in bringing Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group into the company in 2015.
Vizcarra’s first solo concept will get its start in IDEA1, part of the new 35-block I.D.E.A District development in the East Village. The building, at 13th and F, will include 295 apartment units, a central outdoor gathering space called The Hub, a greenhouse, bike store, coffee house and more. David Malmuth, a partner behind IDEA1, told Eater that Lola 55 seemed like the ideal fit to be the site’s sole full restaurant tenant, serving residents and surrounding neighborhood from its corner spot along a main thoroughfare leads in and out of the East Village and downtown area.
Lola 55 is expected to debut early next year, with local design firm Bells + Whistles (Starlite, Sycamore Den, Bracero) signed on for the 3,200-square-foot space which has glass walls and 20-foot ceilings. It will span an open kitchen stocked with a woodfired grill, tortilla and meat-carving stations plus a cocktail bar, dining room and patio.
Bent says his menu of 10 core tacos will be rooted in the traditional but presented in new ways, inspired by evolution of modern Mexican cuisine. Besides tacos, there will be daily lunch options, weekend brunch and other plates at dinner, including market-driven specials, sides and desserts.
Urban Strategies Group’s Pasquale Ioele, who helped secure the location, said, “Our team is excited to be working with Lola 55. We look forward to the incredible, culinary experience they will bring to downtown and all of San Diego in the years to come.”