Biz Beat

Popular valley chef John Surla puts one of his restaurants up for sale

Lola Bistro by valley chef John Surla pictured Oct. 26, 2019 in Hilmar, Calif.
Lola Bistro by valley chef John Surla pictured Oct. 26, 2019 in Hilmar, Calif.

Like a new baby, a new restaurant needs a lot of care and feeding.

So valley chef John Surla has decided to sell and then close his four-year old Hilmar site, Lola Bistro & Event Center, to focus on his new Ripon restaurant, Fina, and his original Modesto spot, Surla’s.

Lola, named after the Filipino word for “grandmother,” opened at a former golf course site on First Street in Hilmar in 2015. Since then, it has been known for its bistro menu, Sunday brunch, large patio and event center.

But Surla said that when his lease on the building came due this year, he decided to let the restaurant go. Now the entire building, restaurant and all, is for sale.

“I’m kind of spread thin right now,” Surla said. “It’s far from where I live and my other restaurants. I’ve been spending all of my time in Ripon right now, and I’m only one person. If I had a teleporting device, then I could do all three.”

In August, Surla opened his latest endeavor, the built-from-the-ground-up restaurant Fina at the corner of Ripon and River roads. The large and uniquely shaped structure took more than a year to finish construction. The finished 6,000-square-foot upscale Italian eatery has a central bar, high ceilings and a curved wall-length picture window into the kitchen.

Fina restaurant in Ripon, Calif., Friday, Aug. 2, 2019. Andy Alfaro

The Lola Bistro property went on the market in early October, prompting immediate worry that Lola had closed. Surla said the restaurant is still open Thursday to Saturday for dinner and Sunday for brunch while on sale, and would only close once the transaction is complete. So you can still enjoy those bottomless mimosas at least for a little while longer.

The Lola property is for sale through Century 21 Commercial real estate. The 3,152-square-foot restaurant building has a remodeled bar, wine cellar and open kitchen. The property also includes a large outdoor patio and 2,400-square-foot banquet facility. The property is listed for $1,375,000.

Surla said he expects whoever takes over the site to take over the restaurant equipment and open a new eatery there, separate from the Lola brand. Lola specialized in more casual bistro fare. His other restaurants, Surla’s and Fina, feature Asian fusion and upscale Italian, respectively.

While Lola will be closing, Surla’s other two properties remain very much open. He said Fina, named after his wife Josephine — or “Fina” for short – has been attracting diners from Ripon and across the region. The restaurant is currently only serving dinner, but plans to add Sunday brunch in the new year.

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Chef John Surla at Surla’s restaurant in Modesto. Andy Alfaro

Meanwhile, his first restaurant, Surla’s on 12th Street just off downtown Modesto, is about to celebrate its 10th anniversary. On Nov. 1, the restaurant is hosting a special anniversary event with free champagne, appetizers and live music.

The festivities begin at 6 p.m., and new food and cocktail menus will be unveiled. You must RSVP to attend. Reservations can be emailed to or by calling 209-550-5555.

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Marijke Rowland writes about new business, restaurant and retail developments. She has been with The Modesto Bee since 1997 covering a variety of topics including arts and entertainment. Her Business Beat column runs multiple times a week. And it’s pronounced Mar-eye-ke.
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