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Lola's Kitchen draws tourists by the carload
Mexican restaurant voted #1 on Trip Advisor for Barstow
BARSTOW• At noon on Monday Lola’s Kitchen packs in about 30 people, many stopping for lunch while on their way to Las Vegas or Los Angeles.
The family-owned restaurant located inside a strip mall is voted #1 and #2 on two popular review websites, Trip Advisor and Yelp. Many reviewers cite its fresh authentic Mexican food and reasonable prices for the high rankings.
The business has seen an increase in customers and attention from the reviews beginning about three years ago, according to owner Lola Gallegos. And the business has seen the most customers in a year this year, Gallegos said.
Meagan and Chuck Yohnke of Williamsburg, Va., were eating tacos with their 3-year-old son Monday. They said their meal at Lola’s was the first authentic “Mexi-Cali” food they’ve had on their 2,000+ mile-long road trip. The family is traveling along Route 66 to their new home in Monterey, they said.
“It was recommended to us by the Route 66 Motel and it’s voted #1 on Trip Advisor,” Chuck Yohnke said. “I looked it up this morning and it’s been great.”.
Meagan Yohnke fed her son “huevos con chorizo” while he shuffled in his seat. Another family of travelers ate beside them. Paul Belzer of San Mateo ate “tacos de carnitas” with his two children, Ava and Jack.
“The service was fast and the food was delicious,” Belzer said.
“It was so good,” 11-year-old Ava chimed in.
The restaurant is a favorite among locals as well. Areina Contreras, 19, was born and raised in Barstow and said she eats at Lola’s regularly while on break from college in Arizona.
“I feel like Lola’s has a more authentic feel,” she said. “Other Mexican restaurants are stereotypical. When kids come home they say ‘I got to have Del Taco.’ But not me, when I’m in town I try to go to Lola’s two times a week.”
Gallegos, 62 is owner, manager and namesake. She is petite, wears glasses and has curly gray hair. She flashes a smile as she greets customers at the front counter in her purple-collared shirt.
“I must be the only crazy one in town to open at 4 a.m.,” she says about her morning business hours that cater to the local population of BNSF Railway and military workers.
Lola’s Kitchen began after Gallegos was laid off of her job as a janitor for the Idle Spurs Steakhouse, she said. She worked the 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. night shift for 14 years there.
“I think all of the Mexican food in Barstow is like fast food,” she said. “I wanted to open something different.”
Lola and her husband Eleuteria Gallegos are natives of Mexico City and the cuisine at Lola’s Kitchen is inspired by that part of Mexico. Her husband also said that Lola prepares the fresh ingredients daily, chopping up every vegetable and making all of the food from scratch.
“You won’t find any microwaves or cans here,” he said.