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Rancho Ortega Blog discusses matters of public interest in South Orange County, including the communities of San Juan Capistrano, Ladera Ranch and Rancho Mission Viejo.

The writings of Don Juan Ortega on the Rancho Ortega Blog are the personal views of the author. This blog is not authored by nor does it have any affiliation whatsoever with any other person, place or entity using the name "Rancho Ortega" (or any similar name).

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Have You Lamented the Lack of Unique, Healthy Restaurants in Ladera Ranch? If So, You Can Help Make Lola’s Cafe a Reality!

We would not be the first to comment on the lack of fine dining in Ladera Ranch.  There’s no shortage of national fast food chains in Ladera Ranch: McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, TOGO’s, Jerry’s, Panda Express, A&W/KFC and a number of different pizza and Mexican food options.  Not that there is anything wrong with those places — they clearly meet an important need in the marketplace.  There are a few casual dining options: Cinnamon Bakery, Corky’s, Ranch Sports Grill and some of the aforementioned pizza and Mexican restaurants, for example.  There are a couple sushi places.  And that’s about it.  If you search Yelp for the best restaurants in Ladera Ranch, you get this list:

Screenshot from Yelp (

Again, we’re not disparaging any of the restaurants above — they all serve a consumer demand.  Some are better than others.  Heck, we’ve eaten at a few of them.  But you have to admit that there is a lack of variety.  If you look at the list, you will notice that there are no upscale options.  Unfortunately, upscale restaurants don’t seem to do well in Ladera Ranch.  Exhibit A was the unfortunate closing of Infusion Wine Bar and Restaurant, a high end concept that received positive praise from foodies.  Other examples include BeachFire, MicroBar and Roma d’Italia.  If we thought about it, we could probably think of more, but that would just make us sad.  And hungry.

The point is that Ladera Ranch has plenty of fast food restaurants — food made quick and cheap.  That’s great.  Families are always in need of those options and Ladera has plenty.  But there are a number of niches in the mid- and high-range dining segment that are unserved in Ladera Ranch:  no steakhouse, no seafood, no gastropubs, no Italian (unless you count those pizza places).  Do Ladera parents never schedule a date night?  What’s worse, there are entire segments of the restaurant industry abandoned in Ladera Ranch.  Ladera lacks healthy restaurants.  Ladera lacks upscale restaurants.  Ladera lacks eclectic restaurants.  Ladera lacks locally owned restaurants.  In the year of the FroYo explosion, why is it that the lone frozen yogurt shop in Ladera closed down?  And for the love of all that is holy, why does Ladera Ranch not have an authentic local coffee shop?  Or any coffee shop that isn’t inside a grocery store?  What gives?

Some residents have blamed the property management company that manage most of the commercial properties in Ladera Ranch (and who will be managing the new Sendero retail center at the corner of Antonio and Ortega).   We have heard anecdotal evidence that this property management company charges top-of-market lease rates, is not flexible, and has a strong preference for leasing to corporate owned national chains, so this criticism may be legitimate to an extent.  But we also have to look in the mirror.  Critically acclaimed restaurants like Infusion would not have closed their doors if they were full every night.  We may say we want more restaurant options, but do we put our money where our mouth is?  It seems that too often, we do not.

Which brings us to today’s article.  There is a Ladera Ranch couple who is trying to open up a restaurant in Ladera Ranch that is different from our existing dining choices.  It will fill a number of the niches mentioned above, including the dire need for something that is healthy and eclectic.  And they will serve coffee!  But they need our help.  We’ll let them describe their vision:

Lola’s will be an eclectic, slightly quirky cafe whose look and vibe is inspired by European cafes (or what we recall they look and feel like). Our food is inspired by healthy living, smart choices and as many sustainable practices as possible.

It is a sandwich shop with great coffee or vice versa (your call). It is sandwiches, salads, fair trade and/or organic coffee, loose leaf teas, weekend breakfast, early morning baguettes, melt-in-your-mouth scones, wine and beer. The interior will feature music memorabilia as well as work from local artists that will rotate every few months. The music will be cool (as determined by Lola) and the energy will be inviting and friendly.

Sounds pretty cool, right?  Sounds like a step in the right direction for Ladera, right?  If you need more convincing, here is a video from the prospective owners:

They are trying to raise $12,000 using indiegogo, a crowdfunding platform, to complement the $20,000 in their own money they claim to have invested.  Here is their project site.  There is a lot more info there, including their story, the proposed use of funds and the perks available at the various funding levels.  (We are considering securing a “Don Juan Ortega” reserved table at the new cafe!)  The graphic below shows the status of their fundraising efforts, and also links to Lola’s indigogo project page:

Finally, Lola’s has a Facebook site with more information.

We need to provide a disclaimer of sorts.  We here at Rancho Ortega Blog don’t know the proprietors behind Lola’s Cafe and we don’t have any financial or other interest in the business.  We don’t know them personally and we can’t vouch for them or their business plan.  We are not suggesting that you make a donation, we are just making information available.  That being said, we are among the people who lament the lack of diverse, healthy, unique dining options in Ladera Ranch and so we’d be remiss not to at least make our readers aware of this effort to bring something different and local to Ladera Ranch.  We hope Lola’s Cafe succeeds in realizing their vision, and we hope they are successful.  Ladera Ranch needs a place like this.

EDIT: Updated the video embed code

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