Dining Out: Lola Coastal Mexican, The Woods

A revamped Mexican favorite and an indoor-outdoor rooftop restaurant

Photo by Kaitlyn Duross

Lola Coastal Mexican

A Mexican favorite, revamped

Lola Coastal Mexican has served crowds faithfully from its corner perch on 16th and Boulder Streets in LoHi for 13 years—one of the longest-running restaurants in the area. It has amassed a loyal following and, by any measure, earned the designation of a “neighborhood favorite.” But in a city whose food scene churns as vigorously as Denver’s, sometimes that’s not enough. Not forever, at least. “Lola needed a big kick in the ass,” says owner Dave Query, “to get back on track.” To keep the restaurant’s vibe, menu, and allure in step with shifting city tastes, Query executed a topto- bottom refresh this spring—gutting and expanding the interior, reworking every dish on the menu, and bringing in a new chef-partner, the James Beard Award nominee Javier Plascencia, from Baja, Calif.

Plascencia has earned high praise in The New York Times, The New Yorker, and The Washington Post for his distinctive “Baja Med” style of cooking, and Lola’s new menu is a good indication of his skill and originality. Everything is subtler, more complex, and more surprising than it used to be. Take the Shrimp Ceviche Negro ($10), for instance, whose color—jet black, thanks to the “ash salsa” blended into the sauce— belies bright flavors of citrus and brine. Or the Tijuanero Taco ($7), which, along with many other dishes, mingles land and sea proteins—shrimp and octopus complementing rich, peppery carne asada—in a way that feels gutsy rather than merely glutinous. Bigger plates include the Lobster Enchiladas ($27) with oyster mushrooms, Grilled Whole Fish ($28), and Braised Short Rib ($26) with charro beans, but you would be just fine sticking to the Baja Oysters ($14) served with three salsas (serrano ponzu, charred pineapple tepache, and melon aguachile), tostadas ($6- $12), and small dishes like Crispy Cauliflower ($8) and tableside guacamole ($10), if that’s more your speed.

If nothing else, make a reservation to check out the new interior, courtesy of L.A./ Boulder designer Kari Whitman. Once dark and slightly cramped, the space is now bright, bold, and big enough for large crowds, thanks to Lola’s takeover of a former bridal boutique next door. With a theme centered on nautical blues and whites, the vibe is tastefully beachy, with chunky marine ropes strung from the ceiling, glass buoys repurposed as light fixtures, and playful sea creature wallpaper to add some levity to the scene.

Will the refresh be enough to draw new masses to Lola? Query seems to think so. “We’re looking forward to another 13 years,” he says. —Andrew Weaver

Lola Costal Mexican
1575 Boulder St.

Courtesy The Woods

The Woods

Indoor-outdoor rooftop restaurant

Few restaurants in the metro area offer a view of both skyline and mountains with all-day dining and beer brewed just a few floors below. On the eighth floor of RiNo’s The Source Hotel, The Woods checks all those boxes and then some.

This time of year, the airy, contemporary space keeps its glass roll-up doors open to an almost constant breeze. There are tables out on the deck, but perhaps the primo summer spots are just inside, out of the sun. (The deck corner, with a modern fire pit, looks like the coveted fall spot for cocktails post-Rockies playoff games.)

With so much happening visually, it is perhaps by design that the menus are confined to one page. When we visited on a May weekday, lunch and dinner shared the same page; that’s about to change with a new, acclaimed chef focused on pairing a more creative dinner menu with New Belgium Brewing craft beer options, several “brewed downstairs.” Jean-Luc Voegele, former executive chef at the downtown Westin and Vail’s Sonnenalp, has quietly taken charge in the kitchen.

Count on the Sweet Soy Cauliflower ($9), irresistibly garnished with cilantro, fried garlic, and lime, and Source Tots ($10), rectangles atop a charred onion aioli, staying put, along with lunch sandwiches and pizzas. Salads are lovely and seasonal, so we chose the Shaved Asparagus ($12) alongside our special that day, jerk chicken drumsticks served atop an edamame hummus. Look for a new beet salad and beer-centric flavors to appear on the menu, if you can tear your eyes away from the view. —Susan Fornoff

The Woods
3330 Brighton Blvd.