KING CITY — King Kora, a new restaurant with a fusion menu of classic items and seafood, will open at the former Lawrence’s Restaurant site after the official handoff began Sept. 7.
The new restaurant will be operated by Iliana Ramirez and Vera Lepe, who also operate Las Islitas Grill in Salinas. Former Lawrence’s co-owner Lorenzo Acosta will assist with the menu transition while co-owner Rosario Martinez plans to move to Arizona.
Ramirez said she has 30 years of experience with Los Angeles restaurants, specializing in seafood. She plans to bring crab legs and fish tacos to the menu.
Lepe also has years of restaurant experience and noted his work with Cannery Row restaurants in Monterey, also contributing to a strength in seafood. He said his specialties, however, are the traditional parts of the menu, including rib eye, as well as Mexican cuisine.
Both new owners said they liked Lawrence’s menu and will keep community favorites available while also adding in their fusion menu offerings. To assist with that, Acosta has agreed to help develop the launch menu with his decades of experience with King City customers and the dining desires.
Ramirez said she lives in Salinas but is considering a move to South Monterey County within the next few months.
“I like this city,” she said.
The duo said they plan to utilize social media, such as Instagram and Facebook, to showcase their offerings and let the community know what’s being prepared.
The transition came with a sudden announcement last week by Lawrence’s Restaurant on its Facebook page to customers.
“We’ve got very little time to change,” said Deep Desai, the property owner.
Desai said the last-minute shift in the restaurant came after more than a year of consideration by Lawrence’s owners to bow out of restaurant operation. During that consideration, they recommended Ramirez and Lepe to Desai.
Lepe said the only short-term delays in opening are with permits and paperwork. Desai added that everything, from finishing paperwork to signage, will be visible within two or three weeks, but that management began on Sept. 7.
“We’re sad because we’re leaving this community, we love King City,” said Wendy Casillas, the head waitress at Lawrence’s and Martinez’s daughter. “Everyone’s been so good to us.” She added, “At the same time, we’re happy about something new. It feels exciting.”
Casillas said the Lawrence’s team knows Ramirez and Lepe and was happy to refer them to Desai.
“We don’t feel like we’re just dropping the baby off with some stranger,” she said.
She explained Acosta has taught the entire menu to someone else before, back when he partnered with Martinez to start Lawrence’s. There are local traditions in King City with recipes going back decades, such as the pink beans and the bread pudding.
Now, Acosta will show these items to Ramirez and Lepe.
“That way it’s not so hard to transition and people don’t feel sad,” Casillas said. “I think they’re going to do real good. They’re going to bring a lot of spice.”