In a move more or less analogous to transplanting the Eiffel Tower onto a side street in Dubuque, restaurateurs Michael and Liz Symon are resettling their nationally known dining room Lola from trendy Tremont to downtown's East Fourth Street. The move is the latest -- and greatest -- in the ongoing rebirth of East Fourth, the corridor between Euclid and Prospect avenues that for years was known mostly for its wig shops and junkies.
In Lola's place, the Symons will be launching Lolita, a casual Mediterranean bistro with an emphasis on Greek and Italian fare, featuring wood-oven-roasted meats and fish, and artisanal cured meats and sausages. Together with old friend and restaurateur Doug Petkovic, the couple has also formed a new, as-yet-unnamed management team to operate Lola, Lolita, and Theory, Petkovic's two-year-old restaurant in Tremont.
Why, you ask?
"Lola will have been open for eight years in March," Michael Symon says. "And don't get me wrong, we've done great things there. But when you have an opportunity to breathe new life into a business, like with this move, it's a wonderful thing."
Among the upgrades, Lola's relocation to more commodious quarters in the Commercial Building (the original home of Otto Moser's venerable deli, by the way) will permit the installation of a state-of-the-art open kitchen, a Chef's Table, a larger wine cellar, and a private dining room. (Symon's popular cooking classes will continue to take place in Tremont.) "We're keeping it upscale-casual," Symon says. "It will still be Lola, but this gives us the opportunity to take it to a whole new level."
The team approach will also allow the three restaurants to take advantage of "economies of scale" to trim costs and improve efficiency -- an approach that more and more local restaurateurs are embracing as national chains siphon off millions of dining dollars. "The local dining landscape has changed drastically in this town," Petkovic says, "and this is one way to try to combat that."
Of course, if the new Lola can energize downtown the way the original Lola did Tremont, the Symons should be elevated to the status of culinary deities, and staffers from the nearby Ritz, Renaissance, and Hyatt hotels, not to mention such neighboring restaurants as Pickwick & Frolic and Vivo, should hoist the couple on their shoulders and parade them down Euclid Avenue.
The potential impact isn't lost on Symon either. "I adore downtown, and I want to see downtown succeed," he says. "If this helps, that's great. And besides, we've never been ones to back down from a challenge."
Look for Lola's Tremont location to close in April and reopen as Lolita in May. If all goes according to schedule, the new downtown Lola should be up and running by October.
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