La Palapa

La Palapa, an authentic Mexican restaurant specializing in "Mexico City style" tacos and quesadillas and regional home cooking is on St. Marks Place in the East Village. The restaurant focuses on authentic Mexican cuisine featuring many specialties from different regions of Mexico. Salsas and sauces are rich and spicy and fresh ingredients are used.

We came to La Palapa while wandering around the East Village, looking for someplace new to try out. The restaurant was busy but there was only a few minutes wait for a table. We also figured it was appropriate cuisine being a few days past Cinco de Mayo.

The restaurant has a definite Mexican atmosphere with stucco and a thatched awning at the entrance. It gave a feel of being near the ocean, though of course it was on a busy Manhattan street. According to their website, this is exactly what La Palapa means:

A palapa is a palm-thatched shelter on a Mexican beach where you can relax with your feet in the sand looking at the ocean while you sip an ice cold cerveza flavored with lime and salt, and eat a spicy shrimp taco with salsa guajillo.

We were seated in a back semi-enclosed courtyard-type space that was less exciting than the main dining room, but the quieter atmosphere was nice. We ordered a few small things from the menu rather than entrees, starting with QUESO FUNDIDO con CHORIZO CASERO a homemade chorizo baked with cotija anejo and monterey jack cheeses served with warm tortillas. It wasn't that large of a portion, but it was pretty good, with a rather mild flavor. I ordered ELOTE del MERCADO PLAZA SAN ANGEL. This is Mexico city plaza style corn on the cob with lime, mayo, chile piquín and queso cotija. I like typical Minnesota corn on the cob with butter and salt better, but this was good too - my first corn of the season! Finally we tried tacos and quesadillas. Sadly, though the restaurant may be known for these, they weren't that good and they were very small. The "shells" were 3 to 4 inches around and the meat (char-grilled marinated skirt steak and chile chipotle barbecued chicken) was fairly dry. This made the quesadillas better, with their melted cheese to keep things a little more moist.

I appreciate the effort at authenticity at La Palapa, but the prices were a bit high and the food didn't quite satisfy my hopes. There are several other good looking dishes on the menu, so maybe we'll check those out if we're in the area, and in the mood.

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