Site logo
About the Business

“She would have been nearing 70 in 2024 had she not died from cancer.”

These are the melancholic words of Lola’s Mexican Cuisine co-owner Luis Navarro, son of the matriarch behind the long-loved Retro Row staple that helped shape Mexican food across the city. He pauses, looking at his wife and Lola’s daughter-in-law, Brenda Riviera, before glancing around the Retro Row space his mom built with very little—and one could see the mixture of both pride and pain.

The pain, obviously, from the loss of his mom—the woman whose birria recipe, a traditional approach stemming from the Jalisciense-style, largely introduced Long Beach’s restaurant scene to birria when she opened Lola’s Mexican Cuisine in May of 2008—and what could have been.

And the pride from the obvious growth the space has seen: Changes to its interiors, the opening of a second location up in Bixby Knolls, constant menu changes and food updates and specials…

Maria Delores Navarro—referred to by friends and family simply as “Lola”—came to Long Beach from Guadalajara in 1972 with nothing but fifty bucks, her recipes, and the dream of opening a restaurant.

But here, in front of a table of food that honors both Lola’s birthday and the 15-year anniversary of her restaurant’s opening, there is a physical manifestation of that nostalgia and change: The Three Kings of Carne, so to speak, that have come to define Lola’s Mexican Cuisine.

We have the two recipes perfected by Lola herself: her famed birria and her almost-as-famous carnitas. The latter, a mixture of oranges and lemons that is finished off with Mexican Coca-Cola and acts as a true ode to Jalisciense carnitas versus, say, the milk-braised carnitas of Michoacán.

Photos and written by Brian Addison.

Contact Business