food and wine

Finger-Licking Local Taste

By Noel Daniel

Chef Surla is a staple in the Modesto area. And since April 2015, he took his cuisine into Merced county to flourish in Hilmar. Lola Bistro & Express features his modern take on Asian fare and American classics with a twist.

“Lola” means “grandmother” in Filipino and the restaurant is named in honor of Surla’s grandmother whom he credits as giving him his “knack for cooking.”

“I wanted to open a second restaurant with a different concept and I wanted to name it after my grandmother,” Surla said. “My mother’s mother had nine daughters who taught them all how to cook. They had a restaurant in front of their home in the Philippines.”

Step in for Lola’s 10 a.m. Sunday brunches which are perfect for champagne with friends. Be sure to pair your bubbly with a freshly-baked fruit crisp from one of our local farmers and enjoy your breezy brunch out on the beautiful landscaped patio. The patio is also great for small events, rehearsal dinners, and bridal or baby showers.

Those familiar with the menu at Surla’s in Modesto will recognize favorites such as Chef John’s Lumpia and the Baby Lettuce Wraps. Located in Hilmar, Lola’s menu introduces many new unique items which are inspired by the surrounding community. One such item is the Yellow Jacket Mac N’ Cheese, which features white truffle oil and cheddar cheese from the nearby Hilmar Cheese Company. The restaurant is also a proud supporter of local farmers, including Cipponeri Orchards, Martella Farms, Naraghi Farms, and Rodin Farms.

One of Chef John’s recommendations is the Hilmar Burger, which is made with Angus beef and hickory smoked bacon. Another crowd-pleaser is the Lola Chicken Wings, which has a Buffalo Hoisin-Plum sauce and is a savory take on chicken wings. Some of the other unique features of Lola are a frozen yogurt machine, a full espresso bar and an express menu. And for those who come to Hilmar for the Portuguese cuisine, there’s always the Bolinhas de Bacalhau, authentic Portuguese salt-cod potato cakes with onions and lemon aioli.

Lola’s boasts a robust beer list and extensive wine list, as well as a full bar. Surla recommends The Portuguese Passion, made with vodka, Sumol, a dash of blood orange bitters, and a Cipponeri Farms orange wheel. You can also come enjoy a locally-crafted brew from Dust Bowl Brewing Company, or make any choice you like from the beautiful wine cellar that’s open to the dining area.


Lola Bistro & Express is located at 19920 First St. in Hilmar. For hours, call 209-250-2777.

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