Laurel Mexican restaurant keeps it authentic

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Click here to enlarge this photo
Lawrence Jackson Jr.⁄The Gazette
La Palapa Too Chef Damian Potuguez and owner Miram Eades show off some of their more popular dishes, camaroñes en salsa de mango (shrimp, salsa and mango) and camaroñes a compañados (steak and shrimp with rice).

For those who have never gotten around to visiting Mexico, La Palapa Too Mexican Grill & Cantina in Laurel provides enough ambiance and authentic cuisine to introduce them to some of that country’s wonders.

The main dining room is cozy and quaint. The colors of the restaurant are very earthy. The walls are a lush green and orange, while the tablecloths are sandy beige. Authentic Mexican decorations such as colorful plates and straw baskets hang from the walls. Mexican music plays in the background.

For those who want a more keyed up atmosphere, a separate bar area with additional tables includes two televisions that are often tuned to local sporting events.

Miram Eades, who moved to the United States from Mexico 16 years ago, opened the restaurant last September. Already a part-owner of the La Palapa Too in Ellicott City, Eades said she felt that she had enough experience to open a restaurant of her own.

‘‘I was at the other restaurant so I know what mistakes I made there,” she said. ‘‘I was more prepared to give the best here.”

In addition to her wealth of experience in the restaurant business, Eades credits her heritage with being the greatest asset she brings to La Palapa Too since she can make sure the dishes being offered are true to her country’s traditions.

For example, she made one of the restaurant’s specials a drink that is well known in Mexico. The traditional cazuela, which costs $9, is a punch that contains tequila, grapefruit, orange and lime juice. Instead of being served in a glass, it is served in a cazuela, which is a large shallow bowl.

‘‘Everyone who’s been to Mexico knows the margarita,” Eades said. ‘‘This drink is popular too.”

La Palapa Too
7500 Montpelier Road, Laurel
Phone: 301-725-3111
Hours: Sunday–Thursday, 11 a.m.-to-9 p.m.; Friday–Saturday, 11 a.m.-to-midnight.
The menu consists of your normal Mexican fare. For example, the taco platter comes with two crispy or soft shell chicken or beef tacos and costs $8.95. Likewise, burritos range from $10.95 to $11.95 and come with such fillings as chicken, beef and pork.

Those who like enchiladas won’t be disappointed. The mole enchilada, a favorite among diners, costs $11.95 and consists of chicken simmered in mole sauce, which includes chile pods, nuts, dry fruit and raw chocolate. The restaurant also serves a number of fajita dishes, made with grilled chicken, steak or shrimp for $13.95 to $15.50 depending upon the toppings.

The menu includes a number of specialties. For example, the camarones a la Mexicana is a $15.50 dish that includes jumbo shrimp, tomatoes, mushrooms and broccoli sautéed with garlic-cilantro butter, lime juice and tequila all served over Mexican rice. Another specialty is the pasta Azteca, which consists of scallops and gulf shrimp simmered in a red chile sauce and served over fettuccini. The dish costs $15.50.

For those who do not eat meat, the restaurant offers a number of vegetarian dishes. For $10.95, the vegetarian dinner consists of a vegetarian burrito, a cheese enchilada and a bean taco served with salad and beans. Likewise, for $11.95, the chile relleño platter consists of two roasted poblaño peppers stuffed with cheese and topped with a special sauce.

The restaurant holds about 60 people in the dining room and an additional 25 to 30 in the bar, Eades said. Once the weather is warm, a front patio will seat about 50 more.

Eades uses more incentives than food to get diners through the doors. The restaurant hosts happy hour every weeknight between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. On Sundays at 11, brunch is offered where patrons can sample a variety of Mexican breakfast dishes.

The idea, Eades said, is to be true to the restaurant’s slogan of offering ‘‘the taste of Mexico.”

So far, she’s gotten off to a good start.