La Palapa is one of the two restaurants I dined at for this year’s winter restaurant week here in Pittsburgh. La Palapa has been around for a couple of years now and it became one of those where “I really need to get there.” Thankfully the menu for restaurant week was enticing enough for me to finally go (just to clarify, everything looked enticing, but I thought their restaurant week menu, compared to some others, offered a really phenomenal deal).
Located on the city’s South Side on the main drag of East Carson Street, it’s your typical little ethnic eatery, which I love. With only a limited number of tables I could easily see it filling up which is why I was more inspired to dine at an off-peak time (even eating a late lunch/early dinner around 4 PM we definitely didn’t have the place to ourselves which is always good to see at independently owned businesses.
La Palapa is one of those restaurants that I would actually deem “authentic” Mexican. Here in Pittsburgh too many restaurants exist that call themselves Mexican when really it’s Tex-Mex food served to American diners. But to me, if you have items like tamal and beef tongue on your menu, you’re an authentic spot.
While I hardly minded (I love the stuff), the agua fresca of the day was horchata, a delicious rice, milk, cinnamon, and vanilla drink which I could savor all the time.
The restaurant week menu, at only $21.15, was quite the deal considering you got three courses.
To start there was the cream of corn soup (it was also available as the soup of the day). Honestly, this might have been my favorite course. I love the taste of anything corn but it also had just the right amount of spiciness to it (pleasant, not overpowering).
Next up was the Cochinita Pibil, a dish from the Yucatan state of Mexico which basically is marinated pork shoulder with annatto (a popular food coloring made from the seeds of the achiote tree). It also came with fried plantains and rice. The amount of food I received was mind boggling but delicious.
And for my finale there were the churros with Mexican hot chocolate. These were the only disappointing note of the meal-the churros were not hot. Having eaten them everywhere from Mexico to Peru to Spain to Costa Rica, churros should be hot, always. I wasn’t expecting them freshly made but they should have been warmed up in the oven at least. The hot chocolate, though, was decadent.
D went the a la carte route starting with the Sopa de Tortilla ($4.95). He enjoyed it immensely and especially liked the added touch of the poached egg on top. He said it definitely gave the soup a different taste from past versions he’s tried.
For his entree, he selected from the Churrasco section of the menu (churrasco refers to grilled meats). His combo ($15.95) consisted of pork ribs along with a chicken leg and thigh, served with rice and your choice of either roasted vegetables, baked potato, or roasted potatoes. He seemed to prefer the chicken over the ribs but liked the taste of everything.
Mexican cuisine is one of my favorites and a meal at La Palapa only confirms how true this is. The prices are extremely inexpensive and the portions generous. It’s just the type of restaurant to dine at when you are craving some honest to goodness ethnic fare.
1925 East Carson Street | Pittsburgh, PA | 15203
NOTE: La Palapa also operates a stand in the Pittsburgh Public Market in the city’s Strip District neighborhood.