La Palapa


I never really understood the big stigma behind dining alone.
I mean, it’s true that breaking bread in the company of kindred spirits is one of life’s more fulfilling experiences, but it’s always been my belief that we should be our own best friends first.
If you can mindlessly munch away at a cup o’ noodles in front of the roaring fire of Netflix alone in your room, you should also be satisfied with savoring a sumptuous solo supper in scenic surroundings, and that’s what I set out to do one recent evening at La Palapa.
The Vibes: The beachfront setting of La Palapa is a particularly indulgent backdrop for an evening meal. As I strolled past the host with a jovial greeting, silky jazz wafted out onto the Malecon,
loud enough to be noticed, subtle enough not to demand your attention.
A diverse clientele populated tables inside and out…locals, visitors, and immigrants such as myself intersected with folks fuelling up for the Pride celebration set for a later hour. As manager Sofia noted, what brought us together from our various worlds was an enthusiasm for unforgettable moments. “Every detail of this restaurant is designed to welcome you in, from the
lighting to the music and of course, the food,” she elaborated over a black pomegranate margarita while not appearing to judge me for licking tajin from the rim of the glass. “The vision
of La Palapa is to combine two true luxuries…fine dining and a day at the beach. People love to enjoy a delicious meal with their toes in the sand, it’s a rare opportunity, a sensory immersion.”
At some point during our pleasant conversation, Sofia took a break from chatting with me to run her restaurant, and that’s when I noticed that a couple of my electronic devices were running on
their last few sparks…fortunately, I’m typically prepared for these occasions. Producing a tangle of cords from one of my utility pockets, I asked a staffer where I could find an outlet only for him
to move an entire nearby liquor shelf and access a hidden socket.
Apparently this didn’t surprise Sofia anywhere near as much as it flabbergasted this millennial:
“This is one of Vallarta’s oldest family businesses, and has been owned by the same family for the last 60 years or so. We have even gotten some lifelong customers over the years, and so we
like to be sure as many people as possible walk out of here with positive memories.”
As I took another sip of the delicious yet potent cocktail and it began to take its effect, I made a mental note to only have one more to ensure I walked out with any memories at all.
The Vices: The sun was just rolling away across the Pacific as we parted ways from the interview table and I took my front row seat to the seascape.
A third black pomegranate margarita appeared on the table as if by magic, followed in implausibly short order by the first course in my Restaurant Week dinner, coconut shrimp in a tasty mango sauce. Beautifully presented and coated only in sweet, crispy coconut shreds, it tasted just like being in the right place at the right time.
In between courses I made a herculean effort not to fill up on the bread basket, incorporating flaky rolls, baguette slices, and savory rye with a garlic cream cheese spread. I intentionally drank
my fourth margarita faster than normal to see if anyone would notice, and before I could even set the empty vessel on the table a culinary coordinator had materialized behind me with a
replacement in hand so I guess we both won that game.
The main event of the evening was a red snapper filet, royally appointed with sweet potato puree and pesto as well as asparagus and chorizo in a sherry sauce. Backed by points of cosmic flame blinking into the twilight one by one, every bite of the fresh fish was a new discovery of my enchantment with this existence.
I gazed out onto the Banderas Bay after retiring my fork for the evening, overcome by a feeling of immense satisfaction with myself and the life choices that had led me to this point in time…which, Restaurant Week or not, I suspect is on the full-time menu at La Palapa.
The Verdict: Great meals and great times go hand in hand, and to the surprise of no one there are plenty of both to be found at La Palapa. Yes, true, it’s not exactly a secret around town, but
with Restaurant Week in full swing I would have been remiss not to shine my subjective spotlight on an area favorite…indeed, La Palapa has had its doors open for over half a century in Vallarta’s
most competitive district for a good reason. Maybe I’ll catch you there.

AJ Freeman on Email
AJ Freeman
AJ Freeman is an adventurous spirit, serial friendmaker, and general enthusiast. He lives his everyday life hoping to demonstrate the nearly infinite potential for discovery and wonder on this small wet rock orbiting a dim yellow star in the backwoods of the Milky Way.