3 Reasons To Check Out the New Loló

Lolo's new space is as unique as its last

Lolo’s new space is as unique as its last

LOLO, Mission (974 Valencia Street, between 20th & 21st, 415-643-5656)

Enter Lolo

Entering Lolo

Loló, with its whimsical, colorful decor and unusual interpretations of Mexican food, has been one of my underrated dining favorites since it opened six years ago.

In all honesty, I miss the two-roomed intimacy of its original 22nd Street location. But since they moved just a couple blocks to their new Valencia space (formerly Lot 7), opening February 3rd, business has picked up as they’re more centered in Mission.

The gains are a more open, sunny (and also noisier) space, a liquor license allowing for cocktails and agave spirits, and lunch hours Friday and Saturday.

Pancko-crusted avocado tacos

Panko-crusted avocado tacos

Panko shrimp tacos on jicama

Panko shrimp tacos on jicama

1. Loló’s Three Inventive Tacos: Co-Owner and Executive Chef Jorge Martínez has smartly kept the original restaurant’s best dishes intact – and they tend to revolve around reinvented tacos. Taco Tropical ($9) was always the most inventive. Think a thin sheet of jicama acting as a tortilla, panko-fried shrimp, pineapple relish and a healthy dose of aioli. It’s light, creamy, crunchy, and Loló’s most inventive bite.

Gold Digger cocktail

Gold Digger cocktail

Another longtime Loló fave is the tuna tacon ($10). On a traditional flour tortilla, long, rectangular, seared albacore tuna is perked up by shellfish aioli, lush avocado and roasted tomatillo sauce. On the vegetarian tip, panko avocado tacos ($9) complete this trinity of creative taco goodness. Also on a flour tortilla, melted Oaxacan cheese, caramelized onions and Anaheim peppers underlie panko-fried avocado. It’s another play in textures, vibrant with flavor.

Of the new dishes, mostly inspired by the Mexican state of Jalisco, a few are a bit of a let down, like goopy Mexiterranean cheese fondue ($9), a thick mesh of Oaxacan cheese, tomatoes, cilantro and oregano, or rather slippery huitlacoche (corn fungus) requeson cheese-stuffed wonton raviolis ($13) swimming in basil and arugula sauce. But other dishes gratify, like mezcal-soaked BBQ beef pulled short rib, tender and shredded over gorditas/corn cakes ($9).

Tuna tacon

Tuna tacon

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Vibrant decor

Vibrant decor

2. The decor is still a knockout: Executive chef Jorge Martinez, his wife Lorena Zertuche (who designed the new and the original restaurant) and GM Juan Carlos Ruelas have taken over the new space with the same playful, gutsy design of the original Loló. There’s a salvaged car door wall, origami boats, cowboy boots enclosed in circles, flower baskets and, near the bathrooms, lively rooster wallpaper.

3. And then there’s the addition of cocktails & spirits: Cocktails ($11) are a welcome addition to what was already lively sangria and wines at the original location. Don’t miss out on a shot of sweetly spicy ancho chile liqueur from Gualillo, Mexico, as a digestif post-meal. Bar Managers David Gallardo and Leon Vasquez naturally go heavy on agave spirits mezcal. The nine-seat “agave bar” features a rotating flight of mezcals and tequilas (three one-ounce tastings for $10-12).

Rooster wall by the bathroom

Rooster wall by the bathroom

My favorite of all the initial cocktails is easily the Benito, served up. Mezcal mingles with herbaceous Yellow Chartreuse, lemon verbena and Aveze (Gentian liqueur), with understated heat and a subtle bitter backbone. It’s a beauty.

The crisp, clean Gold Digger would be my next choice. Also served up and featuring mezcal and Yellow Chartreuse, it plays like a twist on a clean martini, supported by tonic syrup and grapefruit bitters. There’s twists on a Moscow Mule, the Mezcal Mule, featuring mezcal and tequila, with a splash of pomegranate molasses and Angostura bitters, and a generous dose of ginger beer over crushed ice, or a drink inspired by the ubiquitous Paloma (the common cocktail in Mexico): Gin Dove uses gin instead of tequila, mixed with Campari, grapefruit soda and a little salt.

Tequila and sangrita shots

Tequila and sangrita shots

Flower wall

Flower wall

Gorditas

Short rib gorditas

 

Benito cocktail

Benito cocktail