A First Look at seductive, upscale Mexican eats at Lolita on South Beach

The goods: Lolita Cocina & Tequila Bar is a seductive, noir-ish taco joint in the old Nemo space operated by CB5 Restaurant Group (sister restaurants are in Massachusetts and Connecticut).

Ambience: The sprawling 250-seat space has a South of the Border-meets-True Blood vibe with dark red velvet walls, gothic candelabras and a wooden tequila cage housing over a hundred agave spirits. A candlelit patio features studded black leather couches, low tables and a movie projector screening black and white films.

The grub: Upscale Mexican street food. Starters average $7-$14, tacos and enchiladas $11-$17, mains $21-$36 and cocktails $12. Dinner begins with a smoking, tequila-spiked grapefruit and mint granita, a trio of salsas and a basket of corn chips, all house-made. Menu highlights include guacamole four ways, blackened snapper and slow-cooked brisket taco plates and lobster, garlic chicken and mushroom enchiladas. Mains feature a garlic-marinated carne asada and a snapper Vercracruzano bathed in Spanish olive oil, olives, tomatoes and jalapeno relish. Sides include beer-battered green beans with jalapeno crema and “verde” rice spiced with cilantro pesto topped with jack cheese.

The bill is presented with a fluffy cone of cotton candy, but there are also fried churros with sweet almond cream dipping sauces and ancho chile-spiked mixed berries.

Verdict: A gothic Mexican cantina with strong drinks and belly-filling tacos in the old Nemo space.


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