Las Palapas is named for the open-sided thatched roofed huts made of woven palm leaves often seen in Mexican resort areas, and it is an apt title. The restaurant run by brother-sister team of Hector and Leydiana Ochua has an upbeat fiesta feeling throughout its colorful setting that includes a palapa between the dining room and the adjoining bar.
The high-ceilinged dining room — containing ductwork painted an upbeat green — decorated with pinatas and beer flags all around, is simply infused with unselfconscious charm and a feel-good feeling. And the authentic Mexican menu backs it up with flavors just as colorful.
The kitchen, staffed with an all-Mexican crew, turns out an array of well-prepared dishes ranging from tacos, enchiladas and burritos to more the elaborate carne asada (grilled rib-eye steak served with pico de gallo, rice and beans, guacamole, jalapenos and shredded lettuce) and the classic arroz con pollo, grilled marinated chicken breast with grilled vegetables atop a bed of rice. Fajitas, which come in many guises from the traditional beef to shrimp, scallops and tilapia, also are prettily served and arrive at the tables announced by clouds of steam from the sizzling platters.
Embellishments for these and many other dishes include heaps of fresh diced tomatoes and shredded lettuce, sour cream, jalapeno peppers and two house salsas, one mild, the other discernibly spicier, but not fiery. Fresh tortillas are served in little covered containers with all dishes that do not already include them.
At either lunch or dinner, the generously portioned combination plates are hard to resist, and not just for its gentle price structure ($6.49 at lunch, $8.49 at dinner). It includes such happy matings as burrito, tostada and rice; chile relleno, taco, rice and beans; and quesadilla, enchilada and tostado, served on the big red and green plates. A perennial favorite here is tacos Mexicanos, a platter of four soft corn tortillas filled with a choice of carne asada, chorizo, grilled chicken and/or pulled pork with a sprinkling of fragrant fresh cilantro, chopped onions, salsa verde, and if that’s not enough, rice and beans as well.
The young staff in black T-shirts is friendly and efficient, adding to the overall good feeling.
The bar is stocked with a number of Mexican beers, some on tap, and the stock of tequilas is nothing short of amazing — more than 100 are available.
In a corner next to the bar is a glassed-in private room with one big table that seats as many as 12. And note, the room is available to any diners who want it, not by reservation, but simply on a first-come basis.
33308 Plymouth, Livonia
Call: (734) 762-7003
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri., noon-11 p.m. Sat., noon-10 p.m. Sun.
Prices: Lunch: combinations, $6.49; entrees, $6.49-$8.99. Dinner: combinations $8.49; entrees $8.49-$17.99.
Credit cards: All major
Liquor: Full bar
Noise level: High
Parking: Attached lot
Wheelchair access: No barriers
What the ratings mean
★ — routine ★★ — good
★★1/2 — very good
★★★ — excellent
★★★★ — outstanding