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But the corner of 13th and Sansom has become the kind of nightlife destination where one needs liquor sales to thrive. So it was time for a fresh look for a well-used space that's been spilling crowds onto the sidewalk since Day 1.
If only they'd considered some soundproofing with the revamp - the narrow space is as earsplitting as ever.
The bar on its own hasn't necessarily improved the Lolita experience.
There are better tequila selections (just across the street at El Vez), and the margarita craftsmanship is spotty - a pith-bitter "clásica" and watery watermelon-rita one night, two excellent variations with blood orange and cucumber-jalapeño the next. But the change in format (and cash flow) has allowed Lolita to actually lower its average dish prices and focus on the kind of multi-plate sharing that has finally become the norm in 2014.
DRINKSA small but adequate starter selection of tequila, mezcal, and craft beer.
There is a typical list of margarita variations, though surprisingly inconsistent in craftsmanship. Two good bets: the cucumber-jalapeño margarita and a tamarind sour.
But there were more than enough successes to compensate.
Crisp malanga rounds came topped with raw tuna and chipotle-spiced mayo for an easy sushi-Mex fusion.
It's also one of the very few menu items here that isn't gluten-free - a hot selling point now that, a decade ago, wouldn't have caught much notice. And Lolita has managed to both evolve and stay relevant enough in the most important way: good flavors. The onetime BYO (Tequila) that sparked the Midtown Village empire of Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran has gotten a smart makeover with a liquor license, a new decor, and a fresh menu focused on more affordable small plates for sharing.
The bar still needs work, and some menu items need more consistency.
Those who have followed the ladies of Lolita since the beginning know there's one course they always get right: dessert.