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Lola Bravo's concept for the Red Cabbage Cafe was to present the idea that the cuisine in a Mexican kitchen is as complex and varied as that in other great kitchens of the world, such as the Chinese, French and Italian.
She wanted to showcase dishes long a tradition in Mexico, but rarely offered by Mexican restaurants, especially those in the United States.
Defying all the rules of marketing and restaurant logic, Lola put her restaurant in a small building that was originally a print shop in a traditional neighborhood completely off the beaten track. Having few windows, she decided to create a unique ambience of movie posters, fine art paintings and drawings from her own eclectic collection. Also, she created hand-painted black tables featuring play-on-word cabbage sayings such as "Lord of the Cabbages," "Gone with the Cabbage" and "Cool Hand Cabbage." And instead of tacos and hamburgers, she offered traditional dishes such as the exotic Chiles en Nogada and a rich Carne en Su Jugo.
With a breath of inspiration from the artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, long before they became fashionable, Lola opened The Red Cabbage Cafe in 1995.
Since then the Red Cabbage Cafe has flourished and its reputation for excellence grew. Food and travel writers took notice, and after some highly complimentary articles, including one in "Bon Appetit," The Red Cabbage had to begin taking reservations as it is full most nights in the high season. It has grown to become a Puerto Vallarta institution.
Photographer David Bjorkman and writer Victoria Thomas first met Lola Bravo in 1985 when they were routed through Puerto Vallarta on their way to cover the war in Nicaragua. They continued to visit her on subsequent trips back to Central America. By 1994, before they left on a year-long book contract to document the Seven Sacred Rites of the Lakota Sioux, they helped Lola paint the the black tables with the play-on-words cabbage sayings.
During his career, David Björkman has worked as a photojournalist, war photographer, art director, Minimalist Color Field painter, fine arts instructor, collage artist, book illustrator, and book publisher. As a photojournalist, he has been smuggled across borders at night and survived a chopper being shot out from under him. His photographs have been published in magazines in over 20 countries. To complete a book project, he slept on the floor of a Lakota Sioux medicine man's house for weeks at a time. He met writer Victoria Thomas while on assignment to document the Explorer's Club Chagres River expedition, (Flag 172), into the Darien Gap of Panama, to undertake an archaeological survey of a Chocó settlement, and to collect Chocó artifacts for the Smithsonian Institution. This settlement belonged to Chocó Chief Antonio Zarco, who taught the original U.S. Apollo astronauts jungle survival in case their capsule landed in the tropics on reentry. Together they founded Zone913, Inc.