La Palma brings Mexican flavors to Thibodaux

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The Torres family first opened the doors to La Palma Mexican Restaurant in January 2005. Since then, locals have come to love the St. Mary Street eatery.

In a region better known for its Cajun flavors, La Palma focuses on serving authentic, consistent flavors common to Zacatecas, Mexico – the birthplace of the restaurant’s flavor nestled in the north-central portion of the Mexican Republic.

Locals need drive no further south than St. Mary Street to dine on recipes developed generations ago by Torres family members and refined over the years. Even uneducated palates will appreciate the fresh ingredients. Noteworthy, too, are the peppers: La Palma grows its own.

Quaint and casual are the best words to describe the interior of the restaurant.

The dining room includes just over a dozen tables. A self-serve chip and salsa bar – an ideal setup for salsa lovers – is located to the right of the entry door. Guests are invited to fill baskets of chips and choose from mild and, for the more daring, hot salsas. The bar also includes grilled onions, peppers and tomatoes, which are replenished regularly.

We enjoyed a combo of mild and hot salsas along with an order of queso dip ($3.95). The smooth texture of the cheese and salsas proved a great start to the evening.

On this night, La Palma was bustling. Despite the packed house, our waitress was quick to arrive at our tableside and was helpful in talking us through the ample menu items. Throughout our meal, she was attentive and friendly, welcoming us like old friends into her home. Never once did we feel rushed or neglected.

Our entrees included a La Palma specialty, Sopes Americano ($10.95), a Zacatecas seafood dish, Shrimp Chile Relleno ($11.95), a local favorite, Beef Fajitas ($11.95) and a traditional dish, Beef Tacos ($8.95).

We sipped margaritas until the meal arrived. The “on the rocks” version of the cocktail was heavy on lime juice mix. My guest reported the “frozen” margarita fell a bit short, too, reminding her of a snowball instead of a tequila-based drink. But we were there to enjoy the highly touted food so all was quickly forgiven.

I can report the food will impress.

The Sopes Americano includes three fresh corn dough tortillas deep fried and loaded with beef or chicken – my guest opted for the latter – and topped with lettuce, an onion slice and sour cream. The dish, like all of our selections, is served with rice and beans. The beans earned big thumbs’ up around the table. They are creamy. Gone are the oil and globs of cheese too common in chain joints.

Unlike some chain Mexican eateries or Tex-Mex places so common in the United States, La Palma’s flavors don’t rely heavy-handedly on spices. The meat itself becomes the star. For palettes accustomed to more seasoning, the initial reaction can be a let down. But dousing the dish with salsa makes you appreciate the fresh, focused Zacatecas’ flavors.

The Shrimp Chile Relleno includes a large Poblanco pepper loaded with shrimp and cheese and topped with an authentic red Mexican sauce. A corn or flour tortilla makes the combo easier to manage in smaller bites.

According to our waitress, fajitas are a favorite at La Palma, be it beef, chicken or shrimp – or all three. Served in two dishes, the beef version includes a platter of steak strips and sautéed bell peppers and onions. It is served with a choice of two: sour cream, pico de gallo, cheddar cheese or guacamole, along with flour or corn tortillas.

The beef was very tender and the sautéed veggies really accentuated the meat.

Again, the hotter pico de gallo from the salsa bar brings new dimensions to the dish.

As for the taco dinner – a trio of beef tacos in crispy corn shells, on this visit – also benefits from a blend of mild and hot salsas. Tacos may not be the sexy option at an authentic Mexican restaurant, but there’s something to be said for successfully delivering on the basics.

Dessert included an order of Flan ($3.50) and Fried Ice Cream ($4.95) and several spoons. The dishes didn’t disappoint.

La Palma is a winner if you are in the market for ample servings, reasonable prices and a casual atmosphere. The menu also incudes lunch specials and items for youngsters age 12 and under. And on Wednesdays, guests can spin the wheel for a free meal. That’s right, La Palma will pick up the bill for up to four people.

La Palma is a flavorful gem wrapped in a small box near the bayou in Thibodaux. It’s well worth a try.

Quaint and casual are the best words to describe La Palma Restaurant on St. Mary Street in Thibodaux. The Torres family has been serving authentic Zacatecas, Mexico, food there since January 2005.

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