Side-by-side, sisters Lola and Lucia pound fresh pupusa dough in the frantic kitchen as cooks scurry behind them, preparing to-go orders. The hustling family staff expands as Lucio, Lola’s daughter, comes to the sink with empty platters from the tables outside. The working employees and the lively orange walls of the restaurant greet customers entering Lola’s Taqueria, which opened on Cinco de Mayo of this year. The owner, Maria Dolores Perdomo, or Lola, used her memories of life in Mexico and her history with cooking to create a family business that cherishes tradition and keeps century-old recipes alive.
Lola’s restaurant sits on Ark Row of Tiburon’s Main Street, a location Lola relishes commuting to. Customers instantly feel at home at her restaurant as a result of the open kitchen and the family staff’s vibrant energy, contagious smiles and warm laughter.
Lola was born and raised in Jalisco, Mexico, where her mother taught her the authentic Mexican recipes she uses today. Lucia reminisces about the times she watched her mother make meals for her and Lola by hand, and is not only proud of her sister and her ability to achieve her dream, but grateful to share the kitchen alongside her.
“I love working with my sister and using our mother’s old recipes from when we were little children. I still remember all the foods she made for us,” Lucia said.
A major portion of Lola and Lucia’s lives were spent in Jalisco, yet when Lola was in her 30s, she was finally ready to make a move from Mexico. She heard about the Bay Area by word of mouth and found out it was a popular place to live and work. Her main goal behind traveling from Jalisco to the Bay Area was the search for better opportunities.
“Though I was born and raised in Jalisco, I needed to travel somewhere where I could pursue my interests. I heard the Bay Area in particular was well known for its work options, so I moved at a time in my life when I was ready for a change,” Lola said.
Since Lola has spent a large portion of her life cooking for others, she was inspired to find a job in the restaurant business. After moving to the Bay Area, she began working in Tiburon, filling a variety of positions in restaurants and cafes for over 25 years, sometimes working two jobs to afford living costs. She previously worked at Guaymas Mexican eatery, also located along the Ark Row shopping center, and as a barista at Caffe Acri, a favored spot on Main Street. According to Lola, ties to the restaurant business along with her desire to bring pleasure to customers through serving food are two of the main factors that inspired her to follow her dream of opening her first restaurant.
Creating Lola’s Taqueria was a three-year process that required hard work from Lola and her family. Lola’s oldest daughter, Lucio, comes in at least once a week to help out with cooking, working at the register and bussing tables.
“Even though I have a career of my own that keeps me occupied, I still make time to help out my mom and support her passion. I grew up eating her homemade meals everyday, so it’s important to me that my mom shares her food and culture with others,” Lucio said.
All five of Lola’s children make time to come in and help her with the restaurant throughout the week despite their own busy work schedules.
Although managing the restaurant can be a burden at times, Lola never loses sight of her main objective: to encourage others to try something new by experiencing what authentic Mexican food tastes like.
“I cooked sopas, moles, enchiladas, fresh salsas and pupusas all from scratch for my children. Now I cook them all at my own restaurant for more people to try, and hopefully customers will come back wanting more,” Lola said.
Since the restaurant is fairly new, Lola is still adding to her menu and making improvements to recipes to satisfy her customers.
“Two of my siblings are vegan, and I would say the vegan diet is definitely becoming more common, so my mom has altered some of the menu options to accommodate with those diets,” Lucio said.
Lola has developed a recipe for vegan tacos to fulfill those with restrictions, and plans on further expanding the vegan options on her menu. According to Lucio, Lola is still adding desserts and entrees to the menu, but so far, the flan is her most popular dessert, and the chicken mole is her most popular main dish.
Lola hopes her customers leave satisfied with the authenticity and overall atmosphere of the restaurant. From the choice of bright wall color to integrated aspects of Jalisco culture, Lola strongly believes customers that walk into any restaurant or store should appreciate the labor that the owner has put into designing it. When decorating, Lola hung traditional Spanish masks along the walls to give her restaurant an appearance that reflects her life in Jalisco.
Since sharing food with the community is principal to Lola, she is very ambitious to create a second location in Petaluma, the town she currently resides in. Although Lola noted that starting a business anywhere is tough work, she thinks it’s possible for anyone to start a business, no matter what it is.
“My advice for anybody wanting to start their own business is to dream big. I’ve worked double jobs for 25 years of my life and never gave up on my dream,” Lola said.