Angel Miranda, the founder and owner of the Spanish restaurant Lola’s on Esplanade Avenue, died last Thursday, September 22 after a five-year fight against cancer. He was in his sixties.
Angel (pronounced “ahn-HEL”) came to America from his native Seville in the 1970s. He first came to the attention of New Orleans eaters with Altamira, one of many international restaurants that popped up around the World’s Fair in 1984. There he served his native cuisine, and began a program of educating people as to the differences between Spanish and Mexican food. He continued that program for the rest of his life.
Altamira persisted for some time after the Fair ended, but the Warehouse District wasn’t yet the place to operate a hip restaurant with an offbeat cuisine. Angel closed Altamira, but in 1994 he opened Lola’s on Esplanade Avenue. It was one of the first restaurants in what would become a very popular restaurant row. A new generation of diners was coming up, and they were more willing to try new dishes than their parents.
Angel’s mussels, garlic soup and paella found many fans. But what he did next would make even more friends. Because of the strange New Orleans laws in which liquor licenses attach not to businesses but to buildings, no wine could be served at Lola’s. But Spanish food without wine is like paella without rice. Angel told his customers to just bring their own wine.
With the exception of a few heavy wine collectors who would occasionally bring a rare bottle to a restaurant, the idea of a diner’s showing up with wine was unheard of. Certainly not an idea that restaurants wanted to encourage, since a large chunk of profit is attached to beverages.***photo by Ian McNulty
The BYOW policy at Lola’s is largely responsible for the fact that, to this day, one often has to wait for a table there. Diners loved it, and soon people were bringing bottles of wine everywhere they went. Every restaurant that allowed it found a spike in business. Now all restaurants permit it–although usually with a corkage fee. (Which Lola’s now charges, too.)
Angel’s son Juan has been running the restaurant for some time now, and Lola’s will live on, busy as ever with customers showing up with paper bags with bottles in them. And leaving with a good taste of Spanish cooking in their mouths.