Tuesday, June 16, 2009

La Palapa Too in Laurel (Really Fulton or Columbia)

We had a good meal and a fun Saturday night at La Palapa Too.

La Palapa is a local trio of Mexican restaurants that serve up good food and an energetic vibe in Ellicott City, Laurel and Burtonsville.  La Palapa Too isn't really in Laurel.  It's just south of Columbia off Johns Hopkins Road.

You should go for the ceviche appetizer.  The lime-infused fish inspired one of my first HowChow posts.  Chunks of fish, shrimp, avocado and onion.  A few pieces of squid.   Some minced hot pepper to add to your taste.  We
scooped ceviche with La Palapa's chips.  It's a terrific starter and the kind of intelligent zest that lifts a kitchen above chains and humdrum menus.

For the entrees, I suggest that you order for sauces.  Mrs. HowChow often returns to the mole sauce, which coats chicken slices in a slightly sweet, slightly nutty flavor.  Mostly recently, I really enjoyed a shrimp "al diablo" with a fiery red sauce.  I asked for some extra corn tortillas (60 cents) to dip out the sauce after I had eaten the five shrimp.

We had a great time sitting just inside from the patio.  All evening, a duo played guitar tunes -- Indigo Girls, Johnny Cash, Jimmy Buffett -- and kept an entire crowd in smiles and drinks.  The sun set.  The musicians played.  We didn't wait for a patio table, but we could still hear and feel the vibe from our table.

If anything, the vibe and the sauces overshadow the rest of the night.  You get rice, beans and salads with most meals.  They're basic, even uninspired.  I don't want to expect too much, but the entrees run $16 or more which feels like there could be snappy side dishes as well.  The margaritas are sweet.  I had actually had a perfect one the night before that tasted of just lime and tequila.  Next time, I'll stick with Pacifico.

Overall, I'm a La Palapa fan.  The ceviche and a Mexican beer are reason enough to visit, and you could spend a great night drinking and listening to music.   

La Palapa Too is one of my favorite "parking lot cafes" -- outdoor seating that overlooks the automobiles.  If you like Mexican food, stop at Lily's Mexican Market in Columbia for fresh corn tortillas, a Mexican butcher, great baked goods and all kinds of Mexican and Central American groceries.  Check out El Azteca restaurant in Clarksville or my post about the Mexican restaurants in Howard County.

La Palapa Too
7500 Montpelier Road
Laurel, MD 20723

NEAR: Off Johns Hopkins Boulevard just west of Rte 29. The address says Laurel, but it's just north of Fulton and just south of Columbia at the end of a pink-painted shopping center.

La Palapa Too on Urbanspoon


Brandon Miller - Milhouse44 said...

I can't wait to try LaPalapa’s ceviche. Traveling through South America I cultured my love for ceviche and it is not a dish easy to find(good)locally. Thanks for the Tip. In of your earlier posts you said they only have it during the weekend, correct?

Anonymous said...

Let's all agree right now to call that whole area "NotLaurel". Cause it's really not.

CJB said...

The Cadillac margarita is tasty, the fajitas are good, salsa and chips a plus and the cold beer is really good. The excellent guitar players can be overwhelming if you are seated at the front.

Best fajitas however at El-Andariego in Olney - also good margaritas and El Salvadorian beer. Great salsa and chips.

Anonymous said...

how about "maple lawn north"?

Brandon Miller - Milhouse44 said...

I guess 'Upoffjohnshopkins' would be too much of a mouthfull.

betsy said...

I trotted off to have lunch with a collegue at Harry's (in -what would you call it? Fairland? Spencerville? It's a Silver Spring zip code... My point, though, is that we were surprised (and pleased) to find it was La Palapa Three! We had a nice cheap lunch in the 'overlooking the parking lot" deck cafe.

HowChow said...

Brandon -- The last time that I looked, La Palapa's ceviche was a weekend special. But that might have changed. It is my favorite dish there.

Unknown said...

Three of us went to La Palapa Too and 2 of us had horrible food. I ordered the pork burrito with red sauce and was offered a nice looking dish of a mid-sized burrito. The sauce was bland and the worst part was the cubes of meat - they were so fatty that the entire burrito was inedible (I offered a piece to my wife without telling her my opinion, and she also commented how fatty it was). Our friend ordered the Fajita Salad and received a fried tortilla basket filled with iceberg lettuce and a few pieces of grilled shrimp with fajita seasoning on top. Note - the free salsa with chips we got when we sat down had good, warm chips but the salsa was very very thin - about 90% liquid. We believe they are using the CHEAPEST INGREDIENTS POSSIBLE and living off of their location and atmosphere. Drinks were good, but STAY AWAY if you are looking for decent quality food. I went last night (Sat, 4/17/10) and I am still feeling queasy after just 3 bites of that horrible, horrible dinner. With so many good restaurants so close to La Palapa Too, go ANYWHERE ELSE . . .

Jess said...

For my grandma's birthday, she had one request: a Mexican dinner. I didn't know of any good Mexican resturants in my area so I did what anyone of my generation would do; I googled it. La Palapa Too was one of the closest options, so I read through some reviews to see what people thought. One review that i saw EVERYWHERE almost scared me off but thankfully I gave La Palapa a chance. Never again will I go anywhere else for a good steak. The Carne Asada was tender and delicious, cooked to perfection. Even better? There was so much room for customization that i could order exactly what i wanted, how i wanted it. My family agreed and has decided to make this a yearly tradition.