La Palapa is exactly the sort of restaurant Chowhound is all about. Located in a dingy building that used to be an A&W, it looks messy and uninviting–so use your nose (and your taste buds) instead of your eyes. Eat_Nopal says the proprietress was originally a homemaker from Michoacan province in Mexico. She opened up the place a few months ago, and the burrito-for-lunch crowd has made the place successful. However, the traditional Michoacan dishes (often off-menu) are what makes this place special.

Take, for instance, the mixed molcajete–a dish of shrimp, thin beefsteak, chicken, cactus strips, and green onions, seared together and served in a complex, multidimensional sauce, seasoned with intense garlic, thyme, Mexican oregano, black pepper, and chili peppers. Served with rice, beans, and (unfortunately) commercial tortillas, it’s $14. Or the “sweated” Mexican zucchini ($3)–humble but perfectly executed, and ordered off-menu.

Apparently, the proprietress is considering introducing a sort of daily prix fixe menu, common in neighborhood eateries throughout Mexico and known as Comida Corrida. She plans to showcase regional specialties, rather than just serving the same old wet burritos. Eat_Nopal can’t wait, and neither should you.

La Palapa Restaurant [Sonoma County]
590 Lewis Rd., Santa Rosa

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La Palapa (Santa Rosa)–Report

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