Family style at Lolinda
Lolinda is a modern Argentinian steakhouse that combines Latin American flavors with California sensibilities and local ingredients. This San Francisco establishment is celebrating ten years in business in the heart of San Francisco’s Mission District. Lolinda prides herself on being a “new kind” of Argentinean steakhouse, one that isn’t just juicy cuts of meat, but a place that brings together the best flavors and dishes of all of Latin America.
“The inspiration for the menu, and the restaurant as a whole, was to create a “different kind of steakhouse” – one in which family-style service and sharing was the norm,” explains Alejandro Morgan, Executive Chef of Lolinda. “We believe sharing is not only the best way to enjoy many different dishes and maximize your experience here at Lolinda, but it also is more sustainable in a sense. By reducing the number of individual plates ordered, we reduce waste and create better value for our guests.”
This lively restaurant destination is an ideal spot for group dining, dates, business dinners and celebrations, thanks to its spacious interiors and two full bars.
Wood fire grill
Nightly, a wide range of meats are cooked perfectly over the wood-fired asador, as well as freshly made ceviche, empanadas, specialty dishes, and grilled skewers ready to be served. Popular cuts include the filet mignon, 100% grass-fed from Argentina and the bife de chorizo, or the New York steak.
Lolinda encourages guests to curate a family-style menu from its varied selections of meats, ceviches, hot and cold small plates, skewers and larger format plates. You can’t go wrong with the ceviche mixto with squid, shrimp and halibut; any of the savory, stuffed empanadas; or the pulpo with salsa verde.
At the heart of this experience is the Asado Mixto, a classic combination of traditionally wood fire-grilled Argentinian meats that include chorizo, morcilla, flap loin, and short rib, meant to be accompanied with a variety of sides like yuca-riccota croquettas, pan de queso or papas. Another popular dish is the guacho, a juicy, prime bone-in ribeye for two.
Malbec braised short ribs
We chatted with Adriano Paganini, Owner & Operator of Back of the House, and Alejandro Morgan, Executive Chef of Lolinda on this ten year anniversary and more. Here’s what they had to say.
San Francisco’s restaurant competition is steep. What are the top three things you attribute Lolinda’s success to?
Adriano: Consistency in our offering, our product, our purveyors and, of course, all our team members. We worked really hard to develop a menu that had a little bit of everything for everyone, while respecting seasonality, and over the past decade we have developed a deep understanding of what our guests are looking for. This allows us to really perfect our craft and make sure that every single dish and drink is perfect every time. We are also very lucky to be in a neighborhood that just makes a lot of sense for our style of steakhouse.
Talk about the inspiration of the menu. What are some of the dishes that have remained staples over the years?
Alejandro: In terms of the actual dishes and the menu itself, we took inspiration from the rich culture of the Sunday Argentinian Asado, and infused other Latin American flavors from different countries to create a unique point of view.
For our chef partner Alejandro Morgan, who grew up in Costa Rica and didn’t have the most amazing culinary heritage, he fell in love with the diverse foods and flavors of Latin America. He wanted to highlight the richness and diversity of the region. He wanted to have some of their best dishes on the menu: from the Peruvian ceviche, or the Nicaraguan vigoron to the Argentinian asado – and make them all with our own “Lolinda touch.”
How did the pandemic affect business?
Adriano: We were hit pretty hard, especially because we don’t have any outdoor dining space, but our team was nimble and we got creative selling meal kits to-go during the early days, offering our food on delivery platforms (which we had never done before) and then eventually reconfiguring our HVAC system and offering limited indoor reservations. Now we’re back to normal, and business is good, which we feel really grateful for.
What is the mixology and overall beverage program like? Talk about the two bars.
Alejandro: Our bar has always been an integral part of the vibe at Lolinda. We offer a selection of classic cocktails that do not deter from their classical preparation like the Manhattan and Martini which are both served old-school with a sidecar. These drinks really complement our menu, and there’s a little bit of something for everyone here. Our nuevo cocktails are where our bartenders get to have some fun. They change seasonally and give our staff a chance to play around with fun flavors, trends and different ingredients.
Going forward, is there anything you’re planning to change or evolve?
Adriano: The restaurant business evolves whether you want it to or not, especially in the last few years. For us, our evolution will always be about listening to our guests’ wants and needs. We will always evolve and strive to be better, but not at the cost of what we believe in: having a menu that is creative, not fussy, where we have good flavors and quality ingredients as the main component, in a space that is fun and inviting for everyone.