Lolita Lights Up Nemo's Staid Old Space

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Lolita Cocina & Tequila Bar wants you to have fun while eating dinner. They call it "burlesque-inspired Mexican dining." That's why the decor, with its red velour walls, chandeliers, and tequila cages, looks a bit like an S & M bordello in Tijuana. But you know, the classy kind.

And that's why as you take your seat, a waiter brings over a smoking dish of grapefruit granita and, holding a bottle of tequila in his hand, asks if you want some poured over the granita. At this point, just nod your head and enjoy.

For more tequila and slush, and more good times, turn to the margarita menu. We tried the basic Lolita margarita, and it was a classic mix made with freshly squeezed lime juice. Talk about not taking your meal too seriously: There are 120 top tequila pours from $10 to $100 (or 1,332 pesos for a shot of Herradura).

Next the waiter brought us chips and three dips -- tomatillo salsa, chipotle crema, and a hot red chili salsa. We ordered guacamole to go with it, and received a bowl of freshly mashed avocado with tomatoes, bits of serrano chile, and a lime wedge on the side ($9). Nicely done.

In fact, things were rolling along quite smoothly until the quesadilla arrived.

It was a steak parilla quesadilla ($12), described as "garlic lime marinated skirt steak and bbq'd onion." After a few bites we told the waiter that we thought he'd mistakenly brought us a straight cheese-onion quesadilla with mushrooms. He took it to the kitchen and then returned with it. It was the steak one after all, and as such, the worst steak quesadilla ever. There was virtually no meat -- maybe one teeny brown, rubbery strip in each of the four quesadilla quarters -- and the barbecued onions tasted weird. Skip this one.

Well, this Boston chain is known more for tacos than quesadillas, so we tried a trio of pulled pork tacos "seared crispy with salsa verde." Folded within soft corn tortillas, the pork was fresh and tasty, if a bit on the sweet side.

​We put off ceviches, "vertical nachos," enchiladas and main plates for future visits. The latter include shrimp ajillo, carne asada, spicy mojo tuna, and so forth. The side dishes look cool too: clay pot black beans with epazote; beer-battered green beans; iron pan corn bread with roasted garlic sauce, plus more.

After sampling just a few plates, it appears as though there may be some inconsistencies in the kitchen. But overall the food was fresh and tasty, the drinks were fine, and the staff is very friendly and keen on keeping diners happy. After guests finish their meal, each table is brought a giant puff of cotton candy -- ours was flavored with green apple.

This spirit is just right for South Beach: Fun, fun, fun, 'till daddy takes the tequila away. Or, on weekends, until 5 a.m.

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