In a small building in Dallas’ Lower Greenville neighborhood at the corner of Greenville Avenue and Bryan Parkway, the look from the street is like a little restaurant transplanted from the Baja coast of Mexico. On both ends of the Palapas Seafood Bar, a thatched roof covers the twin patios. The concrete block and clay bricking of the walls has been painted to have a touch of adobe, but is well worn. The basic metal tables and chairs feel like they have been gathered from a beach bar, and you can almost imagine someone sweeping out the sand every night.
This corner on which the restaurant Palapas sits is not the tony look of Dallas central business district. Even Andrew Bottomley, concierge at Dallas hotel The Joule—an ultra-hip hotel as known for its cantilevered pool and gorgeous Taschen bookstore as it is for attracting travelers who seem to driven by the eclectic and the unexpected—says he has to feel out whether a recommendation for Palapas is perhaps a bit too edgy even for his guests. But the ones who make the trip, he says, are never disappointed.
Once inside the restaurant, you can see why. Any outward wonders about where the taxi just delivered you are washed away with the friendly, laid-back nature of the staff, and by a quick pour of a cerveza as you settle down for dinner in what was once a tamale factory. Today, the restaurant serves food inspired by Mexico’s Sinaloa region, a largely agricultural state bordering the Gulf of California, and on a quiet Monday night, three tables of diners are sandwiched between the bar and a wall, and it’s clear, they’re all locals, gathering for comfort food favorites and perfect casual seafood dishes.
Order smartly and a bowl of the popular Ceviche Dorado (a fish-based ceviche) or Ceviche Mazatlan (a shrimp and avocado ceviche) will arrive at your table as an appetizer with a basket of perfectly cooked tortilla chips and a spicy house salsa. Continue your good luck with an order of the grilled snapper, or perhaps a cauldron of the of the “seven seas” soup, or better yet, of the Mariscoco, a seafood dish served within a coconut, mixed with slices of the coconut’s meat.
Even for an hour as you recount stories of your own favorite trips down the Baja, through Sinaloa or to Mexico City or of the first time your really discovered ceviche, you’ll forget you’re in an older Dallas neighborhood and will be transplanted thousands of miles away. Walk back outside under the thatched patio, and you’ll half expect to see surf boards lined up, but instead, you’re back in the thrum of Dallas, just three miles from a buzzing downtown fueled by oil money. Straight from old Mexico to new Dallas: That’s the Palapas charm.
Get there: Palapas Seafood Bar