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The Bend Magazine

Hola, YOLA

11/01/2019 04:41PM ● By Julieta Hernandez
By: Julieta Hernandez  Photos by: Rachel Benavides 

The result of a flavorful passion and a heaping spoonful of hard work, YOLA Cocina Mexicana seems to fit right into the Lamar Park Shopping Center as a new and fresh dining experience that both excites and entices us.

YOLA is meant to embody a lot – even more than what its dishes will surprise us with. Owner Ryan Rios, also behind BKK thai kitchen + bar, pulled inspiration for this new local eatery from his enriching travels and tastes of dishes from roughly 27 countries.

“There is this idea that for something to be ‘Mexican,’ it must be bright and colorful, which is in far contrast to what YOLA has become,” Rios says about YOLA’s style and aesthetics. “When visiting the Polanco District in Mexico City, it is elegant and stylishly fashionable, from the old to the new. The space I created is very intimate and incorporates that mix of styles throughout the years.”

The space features handcrafted tile from Squarefoot Design Studio, as well as work from local upholsterer Mr. Marroquin, who Rios mentioned hasn’t done this type of work in about 30 years. The aesthetic of the interior is a huge part of the overall dining experience and atmosphere of the restaurant.

What Rios does aim to keep colorful are the dishes prepared for guests. Eating by the seasons, with a focus on high-quality ingredients, are points of emphasis Rios draws from when it comes to the food you will find on YOLA’s menu. These dining elements come from his traditional dining experiences; just as his grandmothers Yolanda and Rosa would recommend.

In addition to maintaining the ever-popular BKK, Rios and his team were able to build YOLA while he was enrolled in the local culinary program at Del Mar College.

“I have this burning desire to see and experience absolutely everything that I can in my day-to-day life, and that is where I get the fuel to run two businesses, be in the middle of opening a third, continue my education full-time, and find time for myself and my personal relationships,” Rios says.

The team and support system who assist Rios allow him to further his culinary experience, investing in his restaurants’ growth and success. Adding YOLA to Lamar Park, which has been around for nearly 64 years, will invite dining enthusiasts throughout the Coastal Bend to perhaps reimagine Mexican cuisine as it breaks the American dining norm.

“Whether you are coming from the neighborhood directly surrounding the center or from the complete opposite side of town, we want to be that neighborhood spot that feels comfortable and has more personal service, not a 200-seat corporate restaurant where you’re just another person in the door,” says Rios. “The family behind Lamar Park is special to me and has believed in BKK and now YOLA.”

It's safe to say those who walk through YOLA’s doors will be greeted not only with a beautiful environment adorned in black and gold, but with smiling faces, bold flavors, and a dining experience they’ll never forget. 


3818 S Alameda St. || 361.334.1500 |