by Andrew Morrison | Lolita’s South of the Border Cantina is on its way out. The once venerated West End eatery at 1326 Davie Street is set to close at the end of this weekend, its final service having been scheduled for Saturday, April 8th. The restaurant changed hands a couple of times in recent years, and even though the bloom left the rose a while before that there’s no denying its impact; it made a difference in Vancouver’s food scene, lightening it up a little and reminding those within it to have some fun. For a while it was the place for restaurant industry types to end their nights with margaritas. And to be clear, Lolita’s never failed. It was still putting up numbers attractive enough to make sense to restaurateur John Cooper. The former co-owner of Railtown’s popular Cuchillo restaurant had been on the lookout for a new project ever since he sold his shares last year. Though it was never his intention to operate it as Lolita’s, he still took the month of March to work shifts at every position to fully understand the mechanics of the operation, both front and back — even taking turns in the dish pit and on the kitchen line.
Renovations start next week to create a new eatery in Lolita’s place. The 38 seater with its long, 11 seat bar will emerge from its month long chrysalis as a casual, cocktail-forward Veg-Mex restaurant called Lucha Verde. I don’t know much about the aesthetic goals of the renovation, but I’m digging the tight branding with the lightning bolt, which – crossing fingers – we might see in neon. I expect the interior will look massively different than Lolita’s, the last shots of which you can check out below. All the tiki bamboo ceiling panels and skin-backed stools and chairs are destined for craigslist, but beyond that I’m in the dark on the look.
I do know, however, that The Keefer Bar’s super talented Amber Bruce is developing the cocktail program and Michael Dinn of Revelry Imports is doing the wine list. The cooking will be the province of chef Sic Kim, formerly of Il Giardino and Cuchillo. Cooper was reluctant to talk at length about the food concept, but I did come away from our meeting with this telling line: “It’s vegetarian, but that’s not the point.” He is aiming to launch Lucha Verde in the first week of May, starting with dinner service (5pm until late) and possibly moving forward with brunch (and even lunch) soon thereafter.
Try to slip in for a final drink and a last bite at Lolita’s before it comes to an end on Saturday. Bask in its history and impact; remember the good times it gave you; and toast its compassionate euthanization. You can also follow the transition via the restaurant’s Instagram and Twitter: @luchaverdeyvr.