All-American is a series that looks at beloved, longstanding North Texas eateries and examines their histories while exploring how the food has changed — for the good or bad — over the years.
A sailing ship is in the throes of invisible waves above the beer taps. There are surfboards and Pacifico beer, and the chairs are marlin blue. You’re by the ocean, at least by all known sensations at Palapas — the corrugated tin runs along the bar roof inside, and the palapa, a thatched roof of dried palm leaves, shields you from the chilly Dallas rain outside. There’s a boat motor nailed high on the brick wall that runs near the counter. Topo Chico shows up in a well-salted, ice-cold mug.
At Palapas, Lower Greenville’s wildly underrated Mexican seafood restaurant, the flavors of the ocean are lime, butter and garlic. It’s Dallas’ true transport to the ocean.
Family meal is going on at the bar when I arrive right after opening, and I’m the only customer for the moment. The staff members at Palapas eat standing up, spooning a mixture of meats, tomatoes, onion and cheese from a massive pan onto tortillas.
Frigid rain falls on concrete outside, but inside it’s warm and blue, and margaritas churn in the machine. Chips and salsa show up, as is the Texas tradition, as fast as thought. Palapas’ pulpo and ceviche are extraordinary, a real breeze of salty-seafood ocean air. This time, I’m in the market for a torta that’s as big as a surfing moon.
Luisa Medina, who’s been chef at Palapas since 2014, marinates white shrimp from Mexico in olive oil, fresh garlic and cracked pepper, and grills them on the flat top. Torta bread is critical, so Medina’s serving crackly but soft telera rolls. Sandwiches come with grilled chicken, shrimp or fried fish. Stick to the ocean — the seafood is why you need Palapas.
“Maybe it’s a little bit more expensive, but everything is fresh,” Medina says. “With seafood, you don’t look for price. You look for flavor.”…