Lola’s Mexican Cuisine owner Luis Navarro believes part of his duty as a restaurateur is to expose and educate patrons about how Mexican cuisine really tastes.
“Some people truly believe it should be Tex-Mex greasy, cheesy comfort food,” Navarro said. “Our style is different. We use olive oil, not lard… Our food has a lighter taste. We really try to push and change the perspective of what authentic Mexican cuisine is.”
In line with that goal, Navarro is taking part in a culinary adventure this month in Mexico with celebrity chef Rick Bayless, who specializes in Mexican cuisine. Bayless is best known for his PBS series “Mexico: One Plate At A Time.”
This will be the second time Navarro has traveled with Bayless to learn new recipes and cooking techniques from various regions. Last year, they traveled with a small group of chefs to the southernmost parts of Mexico and this year they are exploring the Northern Baja.
“We study ingredients and style and part of the trip is to learn about the culture,” Navarro said.
“Depending on where you are, a tamale might be made from a banana leaf or a corn husk. You travel to the various hot spots, such as where the first fish taco was introduced… Our customers are becoming more aware and they like to know where the recipes are coming from.”
What he learns during this trip — like the last one — will be brought back to Long Beach. Navarro, who returns on Oct. 29, said he will cook up new specials and the best-received recipes will be added to the menu.
That menu was originally designed by Navarro’s mother, Lola, who followed her long-time dream and opened the restaurant nearly five years ago using family recipes. When she was diagnosed with a terminal cancer that took her life, her son and other family members kept the business going.
“When she got sick, we all came in to help,” Navarro said. “My dad was an executive chef for 35 years and we all grew up in the kitchen, so we went to work.”
The restaurant — known for serving bottomless and unique red and green salsa — added a parklet this year that gives Lola’s more of a presence on Fourth Street’s Retro Row, where Navarros is actively involved in the 4th Street Business Association.
Besides being a standout in Mexican cuisine, the restaurant is known for participating in community events and charitable projects, including a mole poblano cooking class set to take place from noon to 2 p.m. on Oct. 14 at the Museum of Latin American Art. Navarro said the proceeds from the cooking class would go to MoLAA.
Additionally, Lola’s is celebrating Dia de Los Muertos through Oct. 26 with a collection drive for new or gently used children’s Halloween costumes.
The costumes will be donated to WomenShelter Long Beach and customers who make a donation will get 15% off their bill at the restaurant.
For details about Lola’s Mexican Cuisine, visit the restaurant at 2030 E. Fourth St., visit www.lolasmexicancuisine.com or call 343-5506. The business is open 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. daily.