Founding Chef Of San Diego's Michelin-Recognized Lola 55 To Depart To Start His Own Mexican-Style BBQ Eatery

July 14, 2022

The founding chef behind San Diego's Michelin-recognized LOLA 55 modern taqueria will soon depart the company he helped launch to open his own Sonoran-style Mexican barbecue eatery. 

Chef Andrew 'Drew' Bent is a graduate of the Art Institute of California that has worked locally in the kitchens at Searsucker, Carnitas' Snack Shack, Puesto, Tender Greens, Tiger!Tiger!, and in 2017 even apprenticed in the kitchen for frequent "Best Restaurant In The World" winner Noma’s month-long Tulum, Mexico pop-up. Bent also worked at Enrique Olvero's highly-reviewed Criollo restaurant in Oaxaca for a short period. 

Most recently, Chef Drew has been running the kitchen as executive chef and partner of LOLA 55 in San Diego's East Village, which he helped open in August 2018 after several years of menu and concept development. During Chef Drew's tenure at LOLA 55, the restaurant earned the highly coveted Bib Gourmand distinction from California’s Michelin Guide. Chef Drew also came out victorious on an episode of Food Network's Beat Bobby Flay in spring 2021.

Chef Drew gave his notice to LOLA 55 ownership in early 2022 that he would be leaving the company at the end of his contract to launch Papalo, a Sonoran Mexican barbecue concept. Drew will officially leave LOLA 55's employ as of this August and will open a wine bar-inspired version of his restaurant inside North Park's incoming, 90-seat Little Thief wine bar. Dubbed Papalito, expect a sandwich concept inspired by Sonoran BBQ and the rich farmers market ingredients that helped define California cuisine. Papalo, which will launch in about a year from now, will be the actual Sonoran BBQ concept that will be akin to a more traditional a la carte barbecue menu and experience. 

"LOLA 55 is a great organization and I wish the company and its people continued prosperity and forward looking growth," commented Chef Drew Bent. "As far as Papalito, beverages will be handled by the Little Thief guys, but I do know that the focus will be on natural wines and organic wines. The food component will resemble (in format only) Tiger!Tiger! circa 2012-2013. I worked with those fine folks during that time and this menu pays homage to them in a sense, even though the flavors are completely different. The menu for Papalito has shaped up by combining elements of my experiences working at places like Tiger!Tiger!, Chez Panisse and travels throughout the Southwest."

There is no word on who will take over Chef Drew's position at LOLA 55, which is finally in the process of expanding with the impending opening of a new restaurant within The Beacon La Costa shopping center in Carlsbad. Earlier this year, the LOLA 55 team hired Chef Hugo Arnaud, executive chef of Quinta Bella Hotel and Resort in Huatulco, Mexico, to be the company's chef consultant.

"Drew is leaving because he wants to become an owner of his own concept," commented LOLA 55 owner Frank Vizcarra. "We support his decision 100% and believe this is the best thing for him and for LOLA 55. We are in the process of evaluating the culinary team structure that will best serve and fuel our future growth."

Papalito is expected to open at 3017 University Avenue in San Diego's North Park within Little Thief wine bar this August 1. For more information, visit