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At La Palapa, A Mix Of Mexican Foods

La Palapa exteriorGloria Chung La Palapa, 77 St. Marks Place.

The East Village has any numbers of spots which would be recognized in New York’s more prosperous neighborhoods as restaurants. Most of them, however, are closed during the day. No conspiracy is at work: the Village’s day-time population of students, freelance writers, unemployed graphic designers and denizens of the street cannot afford nice lunches. A very different, and more elegant, crowd, descends on the neighborhood at night — and the nice places open up. Fortunately, for those of us who work here, and care, perhaps all too much, about our lunch life, there is La Palapa, at 77 St. Marks Place, just east of First Avenue.

I discovered La Palapa on one of my daily rambles, and was at first put off by the fact that, though it seated at least fifty, absolutely no one was inside. Still, I thought, it looks so nice. And the menu seems so terribly nuevo Mexicano. What could be wrong? Nothing, I soon learned: La Palapa serves an extremely refined cuisine. I once asked, as diplomatically as possible, “How do you guys survive?” And Drew Doallas-Baxter, the day-time wait staff, an amiable stringbean with a hipster chin-beard and a skinny braid, explained that the restaurant packed them in at night; and since Domingo Torres, the indefatigable chef, comes in at mid-day anyway, they might as well open up for the occasional lunch-time stray.
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