Lola’s Kitchen Transforms from Illicit Takeout to a Must-Visit Hotspot

There is so much more to a restaurant than its menu and the dishes it serves. Discovering the story behind a restaurant offers you a deeper connection with the food you’re eating, enriching your dining experience. Lola’s Kitchen Filipino Cuisine on Somerset, run by chef/owner Kim Epino, has a story you will never forget, making eating his food even more special.

Covid was a tough time for many of us, and finding a creative outlet to sink our teeth into was a critical way to keep us feeling sane. Some took up painting, others turned to sewing, and many embraced the breadmaking craze of 2020. But Kim? He found his escape in cooking.

One day, after preparing a dish using recipes from his childhood, Kim shared a picture on his Instagram story, prompting one of his followers to inquire where the delicious meal came from. Upon learning that Kim made it in his home kitchen, the message that would launch his new career appeared on his phone screen —“Can I get a plate? I’ll pay you for it.”

After placing a meal in a Tupperware container and wrapping it in a Walmart bag, Kim sold his first plate of food for $10.

Word spread like wildfire. Soon, Kim was selling so many plates of food that he was kicked out of his apartment. But this didn’t stop him; it only made him work harder. Kim found a one-bedroom apartment, and business began to boom. CTV News picked up the story of the “new Ottawa Filipino takeout restaurant” and requested to interview Kim live on air.

The only problem was Kim didn’t have a restaurant yet.

Being quick on his feet, Kim came up with a plan. He rented a commercial kitchen for the interview. Since it was still Covid, everything was on Zoom, all he needed was a background for an hour or two.

After the interview, business grew even more. A well-known local writer wanted to pick up the story on Kim but was tipped off that it was not a legitimate business.

It was the turning point that turned Kim Epino into Chef Kim. He purchased the necessary business licences, rented a commercial space above Beyond the Pale Brewery, and Lola’s Kitchen was born!

Fast-forward to 2024, Chef Kim continues to serve up some of the most incredible food in this city from Lola’s Kitchen at 765 Somerset Street West.

So let’s talk more about it, the food that is.

“Lola” is the Filipino word for grandmother, and Chef Kim’s cuisine pays tribute to the dishes he was raised on, lovingly prepared by his grandmother. The restaurant offers platters in various sizes, with pricing per person, encouraging a communal, family-style dining experience.

Much like his lola would do, the table is set with banana leaves, two sauces, and some plastic gloves, as you are encouraged to eat with your hands. Then the food hits the table—a massive platter of saucy BBQ chicken, sweet and salty ribs, rice, fruit, and other accoutrements to accent the dishes.

The chicken may be the best I’ve ever eaten. It is juicy, saucy, well-seasoned deliciousness. Chef Kim recommends placing a mound of rice on a banana leaf, ripping off some chicken and placing it on the rice, finishing the bite with his signature herb-infused vinegar, and popping the whole bite in your mouth.

Next were the ribs. Traditionally made with pork, Chef Kim opts for halal beef short rib so that he can serve food to the larger community. Halal or not, these ribs are incredible. Cooked to perfection in a sweet, sticky sauce, they are tender and impossible to put down.

Describing the exceptional quality of the food at Lola’s is challenging without experiencing it firsthand; however, what isn’t hard to describe is the service. Each member of Chef Kim’s team is hard-working, kind, considerate, and happy to help you. From recommending one of the unique Filipino beers to ensuring you’re comfortable and enjoying your meal, Lola’s embodies Filipino hospitality in the Capital.

Chef Kim’s story is one for the ages. It is a story of never giving up and following your dreams no matter what it takes. When you love something wholeheartedly, success is not just an option but an inevitability.

Visit Lola’s Kitchen at 765 Somerset Street West or online at

Photos: Jordan Pizzuti