By Melanie Galarce
Lolo’s Surf Cantina is a restaurant located South of Fifth (161 Ocean Dr, Miami Beach) spearheaded by chef/partner Richard Ampudia who has been nicknamed “the Godfather of Mexican Street Food.” Neatly tucked away on the corner of the newly renovated Stanton South Beach, Lolo’s Surf Cantina serves Mexican food with family-style plates and a gastropub feel.
Menu highlights: I tried a bit of everything on the menu, including the Tostada de Pulpo (Spanish octopus, hoja santa, guacamole, and chile de arbol), as well as the Bone Marrow Chalupa (roasted bone marrow, salsa verde, herb salad, and Venezuelan chimichurri – guasacaca).
You’ll find eccentric dish options for those who have a slightly more refined palate but if in doubt, you can always count on the taco section of the menu to make you feel at ease. I’ll go out on a limb here and let you know that what I loved most about Lolo’s was their ability to update otherwise traditional Mexican dishes. I don’t think I would ever order veggie tacos at a Mexican joint, but the Vegetarian Tacos (smoked king oyster mushroom, cauliflower, tomato confit, and pepita pesto) were the perfect item to differentiate this place from other Mexican establishments. There’s a consistent thread of innovation across the menu that’s very exciting.
I finished off my meal with Blood Orange Granizado with Mezcal (a shaved ice bathed in mezcal) and Pastel de Elote Crème Fraiche Ice Cream (a sweet Mexican corn cake drenched with ice cream and condensed milk) – two very different desserts, but each indulgent and rich in their own right. It should also be noted that the elote picture does this dessert no justice. My Annie Leibovitz skills were lacking on this particular evening, but trust me when I say it was divine!
Standout dish: Exploring Mexican food is a guilty pleasure of mine, but I would seldom venture to order a vegan dish when I appreciate the indulgence of tacos, enchiladas, etc. With that in mind, the Vegan Aguachile (hearts of palm, avocado, apple, cilantro, and pumpkin seeds) was a highlight of the evening. The dish has so many layers to it, the citrus of the cilantro, coupled with the sweetness of the Avocado and sprinkles of crunchy pumpkin seeds make this dish a concoction of flavor and texture that will leave you weak in the knees.
Another highlight was undoubtedly the Pescado Frito (whole snapper, guajillo, herb salad, tortilla, and house salsa). This dish felt like I was back in the beaches of my beloved Cartagena getting ready for an idle beach day without interruptions. Any dish that makes it feel like home or a breezy beach day is a winner in my book. Also, I love that it comes with corn bread tortillas to keep it authentic to its Mexican roots.
Are we boozing? It’s a Mexican restaurant, what do you think? Of course we are. The beverage program is led by mixologist Jose Luis Leon and you’ll find local beer on draft, craft cocktails, and wine. And what’s better than lots of boozing choices? A daily happy hour! And this one in particular includes Saturday and Sunday because weekends tend to have happier hours than other days of the week.
Check this place out if you like: For a delightful Mexican meal, we adamantly recommend Olla, and this place has excellent Mexican fare so it’s just another option to consider (this one a bit more laid back.) The place also reminds us a lot of SoCal Tacos, although Lolo’s offers way more than just a taco menu, we see the Californian influence with the healthier menu options and the underlining Mexican theme is prevalent.
Mel’s take: I love anything South of Fifth. Unlike the rest of Miami Beach, it has always felt like this area is a bit resistant to the stereotypes of South Beach or maybe that’s just wishful thinking. In either case, Lolo’s Surf Cantina has the juxtaposition of sophisticated Mexican food and the simplicity of good ol’ tacos. It’s the kind of place where you can have a nice dinner date or simply stop by after a dip in the beach to grab a few cocktails and damn a good Mexican meal. Win-win.