Lola Gaspar

Lola Gaspar 003Restaurateurs have a way of looking  ill at ease, or just ill at the beginning of a new venture. After all; life savings, mortgages, pawnable goods and  first-born children are often hanging in the balance. Yet in the half-dozen times I’ve been to Lola Gaspar since it opened ten months ago, the owners always appear relaxed and companionable, chatting up guests with the effortless brio of the guys you met on the train to Pamplona back in college.

 Indeed the Santa Ana Artist’s Village is about as close to Europe as you’ll get in OC. With the Santora Arts Building’s ultra-baroque churrigueresque-style faςade as its bones and a pedestrian street with a trickling fountain and  sunny patio in front, the reinvented pocket of downtown Santa Ana is channeling a Gaudí -studded Barcelona or even Milan’s Brera neighborhood with its side street wiles. A prickly debate has raged for at least ten years over whether this area could or should  go through the pains of metamorphosis. Now the point is moot thanks to a handful of pioneering  restaurants and clubs like Lola that are stimulating down town Santa Ana’s economy one glass of sangria at a time.lola gaspar outside 009

Inside, there are a handful of black leather booths and cute servers that sometimes wear boots to match. Hi-tops and bar stools  flank the L-shaped bar. A single flat screen discreetly shows stuff like The Motorcycle Diaries or the Argentine Super Clasico soccer match while samba plays on an IPOD. Shadows cast by florid wrought iron give the haunt an ethereal vibe during lunchtime while goth-glam chandeliers add femininity at night.

Lola Gaspar 006

Lola’s kitchen occupies the paltry square footage a larger restaurant might set aside for, say,  their small walk-in, yet manages to turn out the casual, unmanipulated fare of a San Sebastian tavern.  Flatbreads  and tacos are decent. Caramel-like dates stuffed with pungent blue cheese and wrapped with crisp bacon have their own cult on Yelp. Seared cuts of steak, caramelized onions and  cheese  in a grilled tortilla rendered translucent with oil is essential comfort food while the accompanying Spanish-style potato salad is just alright.

At thirteen dollars, the roasted wild snapper is one of the more expensive things on the  menu. Cooked to  tender flakiness and dressed in  a tangy caper beurre blanc, it could easily go for more in a formal setting on a dinner menu  even without the accompanying green beans and  crumbly, golden-crusted goat cheese polenta that yields to a pudding-like texture. 

Let the politicos spar about whether gentrification was nefarious or the  if the dominant demographic and current aesthetic of the neighborhood will continue to co-exist. I’ll be on the patio at Lola with a slightly effervescent glass of Twin Vines albarino.

Lola Gaspar 211 W. 2nd Street Santa Ana 92701 (714) 972 1172. Dinner for two, $40.00,  food only.

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3 Responses to “Lola Gaspar”

  1. Lollyblogger Says:

    Your pictures are GREAT! (almost as good as your writing). Only problem that I can see is reading your blog makes me really, really hungry.

  2. Aunt Julie Says:

    I’m drooling!…….Especially since Mexican is one of my favorite meals! I think I could handle those caramel dates with blue cheese and baon! YUM!

  3. Tippy Says:

    Love your articles but suggest sizing your pictures at about 500 to 600 pixels in width. I had to scroll this one just to read it……..pics were a little too big. Keep the good stuff coming………I’m trying to spread the word.

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