John Surla’s new restaurant in Hilmar will pay tribute to the woman with whom he credits his success.
Work is underway on the Lola Bistro and Express by John Surla, which will open at a former golf course site on First Street in Hilmar sometime in the next few weeks. “Lola,” Surla says, is Filipino for “grandmother.” He says his grandmother taught his mother, who was one of nine daughters, to cook. He, in turn, got his own skills, which led him to open his eponymous restaurant in Modesto in 2009 after serving as chef at Galletto Ristaurante for seven years.
Surla said he is excited about the opportunity to expand his brand to a new audience. Hilmar is far enough that he won’t be competing with himself. “It’s 13 miles from the restaurant,” he said.
And though it’s a small town, its central location offers the opportunity to draw in hungry folks from Turlock to Merced. He said he’s already spoken with some of the employees of Foster Farms in Livingston, who are excited about the restaurant’s proximity.
“And I wanted to put a restaurant in the middle of a great community,” he said. “I want to bring local, fresh ingredients to Hilmar.”
Lola will be similar in some ways to the 12th Street restaurant, but with a more casual vibe.
“Half of it will be like Surla’s, with plated food and a full bar,” the chef said. “The other half will be the express side, with an espresso bar.”
He described the look as “rustic” with earth tones and a “farm feeling.”
Some dishes will be the same, however. This is good news for fans of the lumpia served at Surla’s. The new restaurant also will feature steak, pasta and lettuce wraps.
“I think it’ll just be a cool spot,” Surla said.
ELSEWHERE AROUND THE BUSINESS BEAT: Good news for local fans of high-end cosmetics – a Sephora is opening inside JCPenney in the Merced Mall.
According to Merced Mall manager Kathy Andrade, Sephora is scheduled to set up shop in time for a May 1 grand opening.
Sephora, started in France in 1970, offers a broad spectrum of fragrances and skin and hair care products, in addition to cosmetics. Sephora opened its first store in the United States in New York in 1998. The company now operates approximately 1,900 stores in 29 countries worldwide.
In 2006, Sephora began opening up stores inside JCPenney stores. Though smaller, these stores have the “signature Sephora look and beauty offering,” according to the company’s website.
▪ Speaking of Merced Mall, there are a couple of other changes in the works in and around the property.
Sometime in May, a Wetzel’s Pretzels will open in the food court, in a spot most recently occupied by La Nita’s. And the Target store is putting in a Starbucks.
Target isn’t technically a part of the mall, though the store is located right behind it. So in a couple of months you’ll be able to pick up a coffee and a pretzel and then go shop for a new eyeliner and lipstick. Sounds like a great day to me.
Have an item for Business Beat? Breaking News Editor Patty Guerra can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2343. Follow her on Twitter @PattyGuerra.