Biz Beat

Biz Beat: A familiar Modesto face in a new spot: Hilmar

Work is underway on a new restaurant in Hilmar planned by chef John Surla.
Work is underway on a new restaurant in Hilmar planned by chef John Surla.

John Surla’s new restaurant in Hilmar will pay tribute to the woman with whom he credits his success.

Work is underway on the Lola Bistro and Express by John Surla, which will open at a former golf course site on First Street in Hilmar sometime in the next few weeks. “Lola,” Surla says, is Filipino for “grandmother.” He says his grandmother taught his mother, who was one of nine daughters, to cook. He, in turn, acquired his own skills, which led him to open his eponymous restaurant in Modesto in 2009 after serving as chef at Galletto Ristorante for seven years.

Surla said he is excited about the opportunity to expand his brand to a new audience. Hilmar is far enough that he won’t be competing with himself. “It’s 13 miles from the restaurant,” he said.

And though it’s a small town, its central location offers the opportunity to draw in hungry folks from Turlock to Merced. He said he’s spoken with some of the employees of Foster Farms in Livingston, who are excited by the restaurant’s proximity.

“And I wanted to put a restaurant in the middle of a great community,” Surla said. “I want to bring local, fresh ingredients to Hilmar.”

Lola will be similar in some ways to the 12th Street restaurant, but with a more casual vibe.

“Half of it will be like Surla’s, with plated food and a full bar,” the chef said. “The other half will be the express side, with an espresso bar.”

He described the look as “rustic” with earth tones and a “farm feeling.”

Some dishes will be the same, however. This is good news for fans of the lumpia served at Surla’s. The new restaurant also will feature steak, pasta and lettuce wraps.

“I think it’ll just be a cool spot,” Surla said.

ELSEWHERE AROUND THE BUSINESS BEAT: I have had a couple of calls and emails about Jacob’s Fine Dining on McHenry Avenue closing. I put a call in to the restaurant but haven’t heard back. However, the restaurant’s website says that Jacob’s is relocating after 10 years, rather than closing.

The McHenry location is closing as of Sunday

“Along with our new location we will have a new home,” the website says. “We can’t wait for you to witness our new Jacob’s with a sensual yet casual atmosphere.”

In addition, the owners promise a fresh menu, new banquet room and live entertainment each weekend. Thanks to all those who passed on the tip; if I learn more, I will keep you posted.

▪ Carl’s Jr. at 2808 McHenry recently closed for remodeling. District Manager Emilio Hernandez said in an email that the fast-food eatery is set for a major overhaul, a completely new design.

I am old enough to remember when Carl’s Jr. opened in that location. In fact, that was the destination of my very first solo driving trip. I was allowed to drive down there and pick up dinner. My mother probably thinks this current remodeling project is necessary to repair some damage I inflicted all those years ago.

Have an item for Business Beat? Breaking News Editor Patty Guerra can be reached at or (209) 578-2343. Follow her on Twitter @PattyGuerra.