The Place: Lolo’s Surf Cantina, in the Parkside at Stanton Hotel South of Fifth, feels like a well-worn fonda (Mexican diner) with a full bar, pale pink, green and charcoal Mexican cement tile flooring, wood paneled walls and utensils and paper napkins in galvanized tin containers on each table and a patio out back. The vibe is laid back, drawing locals who come for a drink or a meal. South of the touristy strip of Ocean Drive, it’s next to a small park not far from the surf.
The History: The place is named for owner/partner Richard Ampudia’s Mexican grandmother Dolores, who was known as Lolo. His mother is Russian and Polish from the Bronx; and his father is Mexican (they met in school in Mexico). Ampudia grew up in the Colonia Condesa zone of Mexico City, named after the Countess of Miraville, who once owned the land. He attended New York University and planned to become a film editor but started working in restaurants and eventually opened Veracruz and then Café Cabana in Brooklyn. He currently has Bar Bruno and goes back and forth between Miami Beach and New York. He partnered with a Japanese company called Plan Do See after meeting the owner in his Brooklyn restaurant, and they hit it off. He was invited to Fukuoka, Japan, to do a pop up; a Japanese robatayaki and sushi bar are planned for upstairs. Loudres Herman, chef de cuisine, is from Puebla, where she went to culinary school.
The Food: Start with chips and salsas including caramelized onion and pequin chile; chipotle with the chiles reduced down with piloncillo (solidified molasses) that is sweet with a lingering bite; and habanero salsa made with blistered chiles and smoked tomatoes. Aguachile rojo is Mexican-style ceviche with raw hamachi in citrus juice and red chilies liquidized with water, garnished with cucumber shreds. A vegan version has hearts of palm, avocado, apple, cilantro and pumpkin seeds. Tostadas de pulpo come with sliced octopus marinated in the herb hoja santa for anise flavor on spicy guacamole. Crispy corn tortilla quesadillas are filled with stewed chicken tinga (shreds) or mushrooms and the pungent herb epazote. Try Yucatan-style fish tacos with grilled mahi marinated in achiote with slaw and crema or vegetarian tacos with smoked king oyster mushrooms and cauliflower on pumpkin seed pesto. Chilaquiles is a tortilla casserole layered with black beans, queso fresco, crema and a choice of chicken, steak, rock shrimp or pork carnitas. There’s also carne asada with grilled onions and whole fried snapper. Pastel de elote (warm corn pudding) topped with maple syrup and crème fraiche ice cream makes an unusual dessert.
You Didn’t Know This: Tortillas have two sides. The side with the thinner layer, called the pancita (belly) should face the inside when folding it. If the outside of a tortilla cracks, it has no doubt been folded with the pancita on the outside. Epazote is an herb with tapering serrated leaves that grows wild in southern Mexico and has a sharp, peppery, anise flavor with a lemony aftertaste. It is added to stewed black beans, salsas, moles, soups and fillings for quesadillas and tacos. The word epazote, derived from Nahuatl, means “skunk sweat.”
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If You Go
The Place: Lolo’s Surf Cantina
Address: 161 Ocean Dr., in the Parkside at Stanton Hotel
Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. daily
Prices: Appetizers $5-$12, soup/salads $7-$14, entrees $11-$32, dessert $7
FYI: Happy Hour Sunday-Thursday 4-7 p.m., mezcal and tequila cocktails