Local residents know on Main Street in Chatham as a great place to get a quick bite and a cup of coffee in the mornings. What they – and you – may not know is that after Farley's closes at 3 p.m., it undergoes a makeover in time for dinner.
Madison resident Gloria Henao approached Chris Farley, the owner of Farley's Place, about four months ago to propose that the two of them strike a bargain. Farley's is empty after closing, and Henao wanted to open a Mexican restaurant.
"I've always felt very passionate about Mexican food and spices," Henao said, "and I've worked in this business [before]."
Farley and Henao knew each other through Henao's daughter Paola Pinzon, who has worked at Farley's Place for nearly two years. The two found an arrangement that worked for them, and agreed to "give it a shot," she said.
Now after Farley's closes, Henao comes in to make it into Lola's. With a staff of two chefs and her daughter, Henao serves up Mexican dishes and specialties such as fajitas, carnitas with shredded pork, vegetarian burritos and guacamole.
All the food is made from scratch, and filled with the spices that Henao says remind her of Mexico. She plays mariachi and fiesta music over the restaurant's stereo and allows patrons to bring their own alcohol to accompany their dinner.
"If people bring in their own tequila, we'll make the margaritas," Paola said.
Henao came up with the name "Lola" from her 2-year-old niece. "She can't pronounce my name," Henao said. "Her mom says, 'Go to your Auntie Gloria,' and she says, 'Aunt Lola.' And I thought, it's short, it's easy to remember."
Paola designed the menu, and Henao often has specialties not written on the menu. For now, though, she says the carnitas are one of the most popular items. "They pour the sauce over [the shredded pork]," she said. "It's like a vinaigrette, but steaming hot."
The carnitas also include tacos and toppings, "so you can make your own tacos," Henao said.
Other popular items, she said, are the chile rellenos and the veggie burrito. "And the guacamole," Paola said. "Everyone loves it."
One item that caught my eye was the mole burritos. As someone who grew up eating Mexican food, let me say that in my opinion, mole is culinary gold. It's what chocolate would taste like if it was salsa verde.
I ordered a half-portion of the mole burrito, which the kitchen was happy to oblige me with, along with the sides of rice and beans. A healthy portion of mole was poured onto the burrito, which I ate with relish, trying to pace myself into parceling it out enough to last for each rich, delicious bite of the chicken burrito. There was even enough left over to add to a few bites of the rice and beans, though not for the entire meal. In fairness, though, there never is enough mole to satisfy my tastebuds.
Lola's is open from 5 to 10 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays and 5 to 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Delivery is available to Madison, Chatham Borough and Chatham Township.