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La Palapa

I don't eat much Mexican food. It just seems like it's always so blah, and
they just don't do it right out here so I rarely bother. I mean, if you want
nachos or giant burritos you can get edible versions, but they're not the
first things that come to mind when I'm looking for a restaurant.

La Palapa isn't a refried beans oozing with melted cheese sort of place.
I wouldn't say it's super upscale either. Maybe a happy medium that seems
authentic enough, though I'm hardly an expert. They use lesser-seen
ingredients like Mexican oregano, cactus leaves and epazote, which is a
change. But then, there aren't complimentary bowls of chips and salsa or
brightly colored margaritas in sight either. I guess there must be trade
offs in the world.

I had a special of pork loin with pumpkin seed sauce over a tamale,
which was very rich and flavorful. I don't want to use the word earthy over
and over again, though that would be an apt description for most of what I
encountered. They also had selections like nopales en mole verde ajonjoli
(casserole of cactus leaves in sesame seed green mole with red rice) and
barbacoa de cordero al chile ancho estilo catalina (ancho chile bbq'd lamb
with black beans and tomato rice), which caught my eye.

The food was one thing, but I was also entertained by the couple getting
into a fight at the table next to us and witnessing an elderly woman get
water spilled on her head by a waitress–it's the little things that really
top off a dining experience. Plus, La Palapa is right next to Holiday
Cocktail Lounge, which definitely highlights the contrast of the old and the
new East village. Have a fancy Sauza drink at the restaurant, then pop in
next door for a Bud and an eyeful of smoke.

La Palapa * 77 St. Marks Pl.,
New York, NY

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