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Lola Coastal Mexican Redux: Med Baja Breaks Through in Denver

Denver’s Lola Coastal Mexican recently got a full physical and culinary rehaul, injecting new life into the 13-year-old Mexican restaurant on Boulder Street in LoHi.⠀
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The new space features the classic maritime color combo of blue and white – emphasizing the coastal Baja vibe reflected in partner chef Javier Plascencia‘s new menu. Light wood, gold tones, and the occasional nautical rope add a dose of whimsy and warmth to the space.⠀

The restaurant was transformed in a matter of 8 days, and she’s looking great!

A native of Tijuana, Mexico, Chef Javier made a name for himself in the food world as one of the champions of the Baja Med movement, a culinary style he brings to Lola’s newest incarnation.

This gastronomic amalgamation sprung from circumstances unique to Baja California’s location and history. Possessing a coastal, Mediterranean-style climate (ideal for growing olives, arugula, citrus, and the like) with an abundance of seafood, the Baja region also had an influential Asian immigrant population that introduced new flavors and techniques to the Mexican cooking repertoire. (It’s rumored that it was Japanese fishermen working in Baja before World War II, who introduced locals to tempura, sparking the invention of the battered fish taco.)

The result are dishes heavily featuring fish or molluscs, with light and bright flavors that have punches of heat and savory spices.

Lola continues its legacy of being an excellent Happy Hour stop, with some pretty excellent deals to be had by early birds. (In fact, I returned a week later after my initial comped visit to try additional HH items). Here are my favorites:

Teetotalers like myself will enjoy ordering a glass of the technicolor Agua Fresca ($3 for HH, $3.50 on regular menu), a refreshing hibiscus-based blend perfect for a summer’s day.

An order of the Mexican Truffle Queso Fundido ($7 for HH, $7 on regular menu) features everyone’s favorite corn fungus, huitlacoche, mixed in with sweet corn, melted Chihuahua cheese, and served with tortillas and chips.

If you want to cobble together a cheap (but satisfying) dinner, I suggest stocking up on at least two tacos and pairing it with a side order of the Arroz Verde and Charros Beans ($5).

Happy hour tacos at Lola Coastal Mexican in Denver

You can’t go wrong with the Ensenada Beer Battered Pacific Cod Taco ($4 for HH, $6 on regular menu), a Baja classic. If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, get the Tijuanero Taco ($5 for HH, $7 on regular menu) which includes pieces of shrimp, octopus, and carne asada piled on some gooey Monterey Jack cheese and pinto beans and topped with an avocado slice.

Shrimp ceviche negro being tossed at Lola Coastal Mexican in Denver
The Shrimp Ceviche Negro is also featured on the HH menu for $6 (normally $10).

Those that arrive later in the night can still order all of the above picks (you’ll just have to pay a little more), along with these stunners off the regular Dinner Menu:

The Charred Octopus ($12) is dotted with a colorful pipian sauce and a dash of salsa semilla. Be sure to squeeze off some juice from the grilled lemon before tasting.

A chilled dish sprinkled with some spicy jalepeño shiso juice, the Yellowfin Tuna Aguachile ($14) is the perfect mix of hot and cold and a good plate to share with the table.

I would be remiss if I did not mention my hands down favorite item – which happens to be on the Dessert Menu.

The Goat Milk Tres Leches ($8) is a must-order. The perfectly soaked (but not too soggy) cakes, served with a swipe of cajeta caramel sauce, and dusted with burnt cinnamon makes for an absolute sweet goods all-star.

Lola Coastal Mexican, 1575 Boulder St, Denver, CO 80211, (720) 570-8686

Happy Hour is all night on Mondays, Tues – Fri 4-6pm, Sat – Sun 2:30-5pm.

Please note: Financial compensation was not received for this post. I was invited by Big Red F Restaurant Group to come in to sample items off the happy hour and dinner menus. As mentioned earlier, I did return later on my own to further explore the happy hour menu. Opinions expressed here are my own.

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