“We are very present because we love our jobs” – words spoken by Stella Hernandez, one-third of the team of restaurateurs who recently won the 2014 “Restaurant of the Year” Eater Award – a quote that should serve as a ringing endorsement for the oft-used phrase “do what you love.”
Lolita, the Munjoy Hill Mediterranean bistro that was opened last spring by Stella and Guy Hernandez and their business partner, Neil Reiter, was in the running for the award with Slab, Palace Diner, Anju, and Central Provisions, but won out for what seems to be their ability to appeal to a wide range of customers.
Stella and Guy owned Bar Lola on the Hill for the last seven years but, after offering a relatively upscale tasting menu in a restaurant that had very limited bar seating, they wanted to open a place that could accommodate longer hours and a more flexible food and drink menu.
“We joke that every five years we look to do the next thing,” Stella said. “After so many years of doing a tasting menu, we wanted to loosen up and have a little fun.”
More than half of the snug 900-square-foot space at Lolita is devoted to the long, zinc bar where diners drift in for lunch starting as early as 11 a.m., stop by for a late-afternoon snack, a full dinner or a late-night digestif.
“Not everyone works 9 to 5,” Stella said. “This restaurant evolves from day to night, and even evolves throughout the day, which is something we admired in other restaurants in a lot of our travels. This restaurant just kind of meets you where you are.”
The cocktail lists are a collaborative effort, created by Lolita’s bar manager and two other bartenders. There’s a list of classic cocktails for $11 and a separate list of house specialty cocktails, also for $11.
“We felt like the cocktail list should be concise but interesting,” Stella said. “The restaurant is a combination of old school and modern – a delicate balance.”
Lolita’s “Blood & Sand” is a timeless cocktail that calls to the pre-prohibition era with its use of Bowmore Scotch, Noilly Prat Sweet Vermouth, Cherry Heering and a splash of orange juice. It’s smooth and balanced and hard to not order a second.
The wine list is developed by Stella, who places as much value on the wine as she does with the food. “The wine list is meant to go with the food that we serve,” she said.
Stella favors small production, high-quality wines, with an old-world focus and a fair amount of diversity in terms of origin. There are over 75 different choices by the bottle and 12 wines by the glass.
You’ll find Stella and Guy working at least four days a week – almost always on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights – and Reiter will often come to help out because he genuinely loves the atmosphere.
Check Lolita’s Facebook, Twitter, website, or sign up for their newsletter for upcoming monthly events, such as a “Cocktail-focused” event in December, or others like their “Porchetta Night” last week.
WHERE: 90 Congress Street
HOURS: 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. six days (closed Tuesdays)
SPECIALS: Nightly drink special; check website for monthly events
AMENITIES: Coat check; spacious and clean bathroom; dim lighting; good acoustics; outdoor seating in warmer months
BOTTOM LINE: Lolita is Munjoy Hill’s newest neighborhood bistro with its own unique and modern flair. A third of the restaurant seating is at the bar, so expect to find a classy bar-going crowd who enjoys craft cocktails, artisanal wine and local craft beer. Open from 11-11 six days a week, Lolita is a great place for lunch, a late-afternoon snack, dinner, or after-dinner drinks and dessert.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE: Yes