My friend Ken recently boldly said, “I think one of the best tacos in San Diego might be vegan.” My response was, “If you are referring to the vegan taco at Lola 55, you might be right.” The Squa-shroom taco might be one of the best tacos I have ever tasted. This epiphany was worth sharing.
I needed to experience this taco again before writing about it. Ken and I made plans to meet at Lola 55 for lunch.
The irony of this story is Ken was raving about the Rainbow Cauliflower taco, vegan as well, but not what I was thinking. This taco is one of the few I had not tried, so I ordered both and a Pork Belly Al Pastor for backup. No backup needed; these two tacos blew my mind.
The relleno-style Squa-shroom taco features a battered and fried squash blossom filled with lion’s mane mushrooms. The crispy flower then gets dressed with poblano salsa and a potato skin chicharron. Smoky-flavored beet soyrizo teams up next to the relleno atop a house-made tortilla.
The Rainbow Cauliflower taco is a force all its own. This vegetable powerhouse combines charred, multi-colored cauliflower, eggplant bacon, avocado mousse, almonds, golden raisins, and Morita dulce salsa.
Funny how, when reading a menu, sometimes you need your phone; here is a breakdown of terms. A potato skin chicharron is a fried potato skin imitating a crispy pork skin. Beet soyrizo replicates meat-based chorizo using soy and beets. Eggplant bacon uses thin strips of fried eggplant to mimic bacon. A Morita is a type of pepper, and dulce means sweet in Spanish.
I wonder why there is a need to imitate meat in the vegetarian, vegan world. Lola’s chef has had fun with verbiage to entice the nonbelievers to try these tacos, but I don’t think they taste like their meat-centric counterparts. The vegetables in these tacos don’t need to imitate anything; they simply live up to their full potential. There is a true alchemist in the kitchen.
No trip to this restaurant would be complete without an order of Lola’s Beans. I can’t speak for everyone, but these refried beans move me.
Lola’s Beans have “family recipe” written all over them; they are not your typical refried beans of the pinto variety. The recipe comes from owner Frank Vicarra’s mother Lola’s recipe. The silky mouth feel of this varietal peruano bean from southern Mexico and its loving preparation has raised the bar for me. No, these are not vegan. If there is not a healthy amount of lard in these beans, then the chef is a magician.
The Chipotle Rice is vegan and features ripe jalapeno peppers that have been smoked and dried, blistered baby tomatoes, and cilantro. The rice is light and fluffy, not the sticky red rice that is often the norm.
Ken’s statement still holds, one of the best tacos in San Diego is vegan. Which one is up to you to decide. There is nothing like a first date, so I have to say the Rainbow Cauliflower won my heart this time, but I would be hard-pressed not to order both on my next visit to Lola 55.
Grab a vegan friend and head downtown. If you are not sure if you have any vegan friends, you don’t. Trust me, you would know. Hope to see you there.
Lola 55 Tacos & Cocktails
1290 F St, San Diego, CA 92101