I decided to go out to celebrate Cinco de Mayo by heading to La Palapa Rockola’s sister restaurant and bar on St. Mark’s place. This is actually the original with the one on the west side opening up later in the game.
480) La Palapa Cocina
A fairly small white and gray marble topped wooden bar with a brass rail and wooden bar stools. As I mentioned, this is the original La Palapa, located at 77 St. Mark’s Place and somewhat older looking and not quite as large or as fancy as La Palapa Rockola. Gaily decorated with brightly colored doily-like things hanging from the ceiling. It is starting to crowd up and the bartender assured me that the place will get crazy later as people come in to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. It is kind of funny because this isn’t really that big a deal in Mexico where it is primarily a regional holiday celebrated in the Mexican state capital city of Puebla and throughout the state of Puebla. It is not, as many people think, Mexican Independence Day, that falls on September 16th. It actually commemorates a bit of a delaying action. For a number of reasons France invaded at the gulf coast of Mexico along the state of Veracruz and began to march toward Mexico City. On the way they encountered strong resistance at the Mexican forts of Loreto and Guadalupe. Lead by Mexican General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin, a small, poorly armed militia estimated at 4,500 men were able to stop and defeat a well outfitted French army of 6,500 soldiers, which stopped the invasion of the country. The victory was a glorious moment for Mexican patriots, which at the time helped to develop a needed sense of national unity, and is the cause for the historical date's celebration. Of course a year later France invaded again with a much larger force and they were able to take over Mexico City and install Maximilian as the ruler of Mexico. And that, dear readers, is your history lesson for the day.
Just coolers with black doors behind the bar topped by tiered shelves holding glasses and liquors. Above that, mounted on a small expanse of brick wall is a small wooden shelf holding nine bottles of more exotic tequilas. Behind those bottles are three pictures of…palapas. To the right of the bar is another narrow expanse of brick wall with a circular arrangement of dried corn. The remainder of the walls are yellow with orange on the bottom and a thin, dark blue stripe. A large overhead picture of old Mexico City dominates one wall. On the opposite wall are another couple of framed pictures. There are three mirrors with wide ornamental metal frames, each flanked by lights, on the wall behind the bar. The back wall separating the bar area from the serving area, bathrooms, and hallway to an outdoor eating area has several lit niches containing Mexican statues and bowls. The lights above the bar have long metal cone shades. Lot’s of candles on the bar, tables, and on the shelves in the back room.
My wife and I decided to grab a bit to eat here after having a drink at the bar. The place seemed a bit disorganized. It was 5:00 P.M., just when people are getting off work and yet this was when they decided to hold their staff meeting. As a result, after we were seated and had cleared our tab at the bar nobody came around to see if I wanted another drink. When I finally did flag someone down they didn’t know what I had just had because the bartender that made that drink was in the meeting. I said I wanted a margarita, straight-up, with chili-salt. I was brought a margarita on the rocks. When I said that wasn’t what I ordered the person left with the drink before I could explain what I did want and then someone else brought it back with a slice of lime stuck on the rim. It took awhile, but I finally got it straightened out. On the plus side, the manager was very friendly and when my wife said she had never had tamales that weren’t wrapped in corn-meal dough the manager explained how this was a regional recipe and then took the price off the bill because it wasn’t what was expected. Basically it was tamale ingredients served in a corn husk, but minus the corn meal dough. I will have to check out the recipe book that the manager said she used for them because even the website for the Tamale Museum describes tamales thusly:
“Tamales are treasures. These fragrant, wrapped packages filled with warm corn dough and flavorful fillings are treats for all the senses. Tamales are a timeless food. They have existed in culinary repertoire of Mexico, the Southwest, Central and South America for centuries”
The food was very good though and not your usual run of the mill Mexican fare. I had a mushroom and dried pepper dish. I would certainly go back and give the place another try. No complaints about my margaritas but my wife didn’t like hers. She said it didn’t have any flavor and, considering that it cost $12.00, it should have. We may have been a bit spoiled by the attention and delicious margaritas that we got at their other location. Oh yes, the tamales at that place were wrapped in corn meal.
I had a margarita.
481) The Thirsty Scholar
I was going to try to hit this place a few days ago when I was doing on of my Second Avenue jaunts. It is right next door to Ame Russe at 155 Second Avenue, almost at 9th Street. You go down a few steps to get into this narrow, brick-walled bar. A copper-topped wooden bar with a brass rail. A wooden floor and some bar stools but not much seating elsewhere. The ceiling is fairly low and there are small, orange-glass shaded lights over the bar. A few mirrors and lots of shelving for liquor behind the bar. The bricks behind the lower shelves are painted black. A partial suit of armor greets you from above as you walk down the steps into the place. A narrow ledge runs around the wall behind the bar stools and there are some stools sitting in front of it. They do have a dart board, but it is one of those plastic affairs. Pictures of Irish authors adorn the wall. A ledge in the front, the one that held the suit of armor, holds a bunch of Irish antiques and a wide area holds a mock-up of a library complete with a desk and someone sitting at it. I am not sure who the person is supposed to be, however. There are lots of lantern like lights with orange glass panels mounted on the walls.
I had a draft Widmer Hefeweizen and it hit the spot.
A slow day. Got off to a late start and then had a couple of margaritas and eats at La Palapa Cocina. I will probably take tomorrow off, step up the pace a bit on Saturday, and then celebrate Mother's Day with my mother-in-law and family in Chinatown. That means I may not hit any bars on Sunday either. Not to worry though, will still make 499 before May 14th. My two today brings me to 481 for the year with 519 left to go.