Restaurant Review: Las Palapas doesn’t quite meet expectations

I did not enjoy my time at Las Palapas on Bangor Mall Boulevard in Bangor, which was surprising, as I have a number of friends who swear by the food there. In fact, I heard such good things about Las Palapas that I swapped the restaurant that I had initially intended to review for this one at the last minute.

Las Palapas Mexican Restaurant is located behind Toys “R” Us, off the beaten path. It can be hard to find, especially where the only visual advertisements I have seen for Las Palapas are the signs adhered to the side of the restaurant which faces the highway.

I had only ever been inside the Las Palapas building when it was still the Ninety Nine Restaurant a few years ago. The exterior of the building still looks like the Ninety Nine Restaurant (the same black and red awnings still hang outside), so before entering I was skeptical.

My friend and I were sat in the farthest back section of the restaurant, close to where I imagine that “on” ramp is located outside. It was a little chilly in there, so I was eager to order some booze to warm myself up.

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I have been a server. Heck, I’ve even worked as a server in a Mexican restaurant before. It’s safe to say that I knew what to expect, and unfortunately Las Palapas began to disappoint early on in the dining experience.

I ordered a jumbo peach margarita with Hornitos Plata tequila (my favorite kind, which I was pleasantly surprised to see they carried). It was certainly jumbo, but when it arrived, my waiter told me I had to stir it myself. That was off-putting. It was strong, too. Very strong. The Incredible Hulk strong. By the time I drank about a quarter of my margarita, I felt the alcohol hit me.

My friend and I munched on the complimentary chips and salsa almost grumpily. The chips were hard and crunchy — not crispy and not stale, but just plain hard. It hurt my mouth to chew them. They didn’t taste bad, per se, but paired with a too-sweet salsa, they weren’t the greatest. The salsa itself was a little watery, which can be common if you don’t stir salsa properly, but it tasted like someone accidentally dumped a ton of cinnamon and sugar into the mix. An interesting experience, to say the least.

Before our food arrived, my friend and I decided to be daring and order the bean dip appetizer, which, unlike the rest of the food listed on the menu, was not accompanied by a description. When it arrived, we thought we received someone else’s food; all we could see (from the top of the dish) was white cheese. Did we accidentally order queso dip?

Alas, the bean dip was the only thing I thoroughly enjoyed at Las Palapas. It turns out the melted cheese was covering the bean portion of the appetizer. The heat from the dip softened the chips a little, too, which was convenient. The dip was savory and incredibly delicious. If I were to go back to Las Palapas for a second impression, I would definitely order this again.

We finished the first serving of chips quickly though, and unfortunately we could not locate our server to ask for more.

I ordered the Enchiladas Supremas, which came with four enchiladas (one of each: chicken, cheese, bean, and beef) and a side of rice. The food was tasty, but not really the “wow, this is so good!” kind of tasty. It was the kind of tasty that you can be apprehensive about; the sort of tasty where you really aren’t sure if you like what you’re eating, but you’re hungry, and you don’t necessarily think the food tastes awful, so you keep eating it. That’s how I felt about my enchiladas.

The enchilada sauce was bland. Usually I expect lots of flavor with my Mexican cuisine, and this sauce disappointed me. Salt, which there can very easily be too much of in an enchilada sauce, was nearly absent. It tasted like a baked tomato flavor, and it was too thin for my liking.

A pile of ripped lettuce (it was definitely too large to be a bed) came atop my enchiladas, which was strange and way too American. The rice tasted like garlic, and it had corn in it, which seemed odd. I was expecting a Spanish rice with onions, perhaps, but definitely not corn.

The enchiladas themselves were the best part of my entrée; however, I could not tell the difference between my shredded-chicken enchilada and my shredded-beef enchilada, which was off-putting.
At the end of the lunch, I chose to bring my leftovers home, but I didn’t end up eating them, as I couldn’t imagine they’d taste better cold or reheated. Overall, the whole experience of Las Palapas Mexican Restaurant left my friend and me confused, and I’m still curious as to what was in the salsa that made it so sweet.


Note: The print edition of this piece incorrectly lists the author of this piece as the Editor in Chief, the correct author is Taryn Carrie Lane.

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