Our Story

"Lola" means "Grandmother"
My name is John Surla, Executive Chef & Proprietor of Surla’s in Modesto and Lola Bistro & Event Center in Hilmar. In the 1940’s my Lola "Conching Salalia Manalo" gave birth to wonderful women, my mother "Corazon Salalia Manalo" in the province of Pampanga, Philippines. (Pampanga is the culinary capital of the Philippines.) My Lolo which means Grandfather, was a Teacher and my Lola owned a restaurant in the neighboring town, near U.S. Clark Airforce Base and at the same time raised 9 daughters. My Lola sold popular dishes to the businesses and neighbors. Working at the restaurant, all of my aunties and mom became really good cooks! I probably inherited their excellent cooking skills, but I remembered the day I wanted to be a Chef. It was when I watched, "Yan Can Cook" on TV. He was so excited about cooking that I wanted to be like him too!

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Restaurant Info

Lola Bistro & Event Center is located in the heart of Hilmar, Ca. (19920 First St. Next to the Post Office) The restaurant seats 60 people in the dining room, 8 at the bar, & 2 Beautiful Patios with Fire Places and TV’s. It also has 2 banquets room that can accommodate 2 separate parties of 50 people. Lola has available parking spots surrounding the restaurant. Chef John Surla believes that his diners need to be comforted by his food as well as the surroundings and service. He feels that the room and food presentation should flatter guests in a way that make each one feel personally cared for. Clearly his customers have felt cared for and they have spoken that he is the Central Valleys most beloved Chef. Lola’s cuisine is influenced by an American Bistro Style, with a combination of flavors from Asia, France, Italy, and Spain.

Mission Statement

Lola’s Mission Statement is to provide Hilmar with a unique and diverse cuisine by using only the finest and freshest ingredients. Also, Lola provides a quality value menu to the community with great, local friendly service in a comfortable, relaxed setting.

Hours of Operation

The restaurant is opened Tuesday-Friday from 11:00am to 2:00pm for Lunch and Tuesday-Saturday from 5:00pm to 9:00pm for Dinner. Sunday Champagne Brunch Buffet 10:00 am-2:00pm. Happy Hour includes delicious deals on cocktails and a tasty appetizer menu from 4:00pm-7:00pm. We are closed on Sunday nights & Monday all day. Keep up with Lola’s events on Facebook & Instagram.

Executive Chef Bio

Chef John’s passion for cooking start at the young age of 5 years old. The first dish my mom taught me was Fried Rice. Watching countless hours of Yan Can Cook and Julia Child was a big inspiration to be a Chef. My mothers family originates from the Philippines and are all very good cooks from San Vicente, Pampanga. My mother had 8 sisters who all taught grade school and worked in the family restaurant where they would serve delicious Filipino dishes like Chicken Mami, Lumpia, Pancit Palabok, and Dinaguan. As a child, coming from a large family we would hold parties every weekend and I my mother would put me to work preparing for the guests.

Chef Surla received his formal training at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, California, under the direction of Chef Nader Sharkes, where he achieved his Culinary, Restaurant Management, and Baking/Patisserie Certificates which are all ACF certified. Also has attended Professional Development Classes at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, California to hone his skills in the kitchen. His culinary background includes such restaurants as Tourelle Restaurant/Lafayette, Skywalker Ranch/Nicasio, Servino Ristorante/Tiburon, Blackhawk Grilled/Danville, Robert Mondavi Winery/Disney’s California Adventure/Anahiem, and Galletto Ristorante/Modesto. Chef John has worked for renowned Chefs such as Stephen Silva/Melons Catering, Arnold Pulido/Va di Vie, and Rainer Schwarz/Driftwood & Hendrix Restaurants.

Recently married, Chef John spends his time outside the Restaurants with his wife Josephine & son Jacky, as well as helping non-profit groups such as the Big Valley Christian Schools, Cal State Stanislaus, Cal Poly Alumni, Community Hospice, Central West Ballet, Endurance, Hilmar Helping Hands, Modesto Symphony, Without Permission, Childrens Crisis Center, Central Catholics Bash, St. Theater, Gallo Center for the Arts, Hilmar Schools, Member of the Turlock Chamber, and other local groups in the Central Valley. At 41, Chef John has finally reached his dream of owning his own restaurant group and sharing the harmony for his love of food and wine. As a chef, I couldn’t ask for a better place to open Lola’s. The Central Valley is the area I’ve grown to known and love and I can’t emphasize enough how fortunate we are to have so much local produce available & fortunate to have great local people to enjoy it!