In 1995, when Myles Chefetz partnered with an unknown local chef named Michael Schwartz to open Nemo, it was one of the first South Beach restaurants that catered to modern urban diners, both in ambiance and cuisine. Nemo signaled a shift in the trendy zip code that had previously boasted mostly fun and fluffy tourist-driven establishments. There is an irony, then, in Lolita Cocina & Tequila Bar occupying the former Nemo space; at least for this address, it's a return, in Lolita's word's, to "burlesque-inspired" dining. That said, the food is better than you might expect.
The radically redecorated space, with its red-velvet embossed walls, gothic candelabras, and a hundred-plus bottles of tequila locked inside a cage, suggests a bordello -- and that's before you even notice the studded black leather couches on the patio (there are about 250 seats in all). Rock music, which is played loudly, boosts the bacchanal factor, as does the complimentary bowl of grapefruit-mint granitas encircled by billowing smoke from dry ice and drenched with a shot of tequila poured on top (that last part is optional).
While diners peruse the one-page laminated menu, a waiter comes by with a basket of freshly fried corn chips and three dips: spicy roast tomato, creamy chipotle, and green tomatillo salsa. A bottle of fiery-sweet homemade mango habanero sauce is placed on the table too, and enhances just about anything you splash it on. After our group enthusiastically polished off all chips and dips, we were promptly brought another round. The Lolita staff works hard at being hospitable.
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On a different evening, we placed most of our chips into a bowl of ripe guacamole fresco. The bright-green mash was freshly made and garnished with tomatoes, serrano chilies, and lime wedges.
Read the review of Lolita Cocina and Tequila Bar here.
View photos of Lolita Cocina and Tequila Bar here.