Drunk after Work: Lola Gaspar

Lola Gaspar seems to be one of Gustavo's least favorite restaurants, and his post on its opening is one of the most-commented posts ever to appear on Stick a Fork In It.

It turns out they have a happy hour siesta hour, so it was time to see whether they'd found their groove, while sipping a cool margarita or two.

Remember, if you have a happy hour you'd like us to review, let us know by e-mailing dining@ocweekly.com.

Lola Gaspar

The Place: Lola Gaspar, 211 W. Second St., Santa Ana; (714) 972-1172.

The Hours: 3-6:30 p.m., Monday through Friday; 10 p.m. to closing, Sunday through Thursday.

The Deal: $3 margaritas and sangría; $5 "street taco" plates.

The Scene: A dark interior, nearly taller than it is wide, with a curving bar and a few booths along the windows. For larger groups, there's a decent-sized patio outside with a few dozen places to sit. The crowd on a Tuesday was slightly older, perhaps refugees from the Orange County government offices that dot the landscape in downtown Santa Ana. Music was of the introspective emo type, but not loud enough to be distracting if you hate that sort of thing.

The Sauce: Inconsistent. The first margarita was weak as water, a Sauza Hornitos blend (what do you expect for a happy hour special?) that reminded me of the dollar drinks on Margarita Mondays at Taco Mesa. The second, mixed by a different bartender, was much better. The same Sauza Hornitos but at least enough of it to taste tequila with the very good homemade sour mix. It would be worth trying a decent tequila in a margarita, but that wouldn't be a happy hour bargain.

The Eats: Not bad. There are several choices of taco, including a vegetarian option, and your $5 gets you three tacos, cilantro, onion and a decent if slightly tomatoey salsa. The carne asada was of average quality, with no discernible marinade--Gustavo called that one. At $5 for three, they're priced right. The regular price has been cut from $9 when Gustavo visited to $7; while not exactly a bargain, they're not expensive enough to make you walk down the few blocks to Ruben or Alebrije's.

The Verdict: The recession has come home to roost at Lola's; while the food is still expensive for Santa Ana, the prices have come down and they seem to have gotten over the opening-night jitters. That said, there are better happy hours in downtown SA, but if you've got to have a drink with your tacos, Lola Gaspar will fit the bill.

The Grade: B-; add a few more drink specials (beer, wine that hasn't been mixed with fruit, etc.) and it would be a solid B.


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