Although not many people know this, Palapa has long been one of my favorite places in town, a particular favorite hang-out on Sunday afternoons, where the patio is always thriving. On weekends there is a lady who makes tortillas on the outside grill and cooks up mini-quesidillas, handing them out to everyone on the patio. You don't find that kind of unique service anywhere else in Santa Barbara. This place is so cool that it doesn't seem like you're in Santa Barbara at all...it feels like a roadside joint in Mexico or anywhere in Central America.
One of the owners of the joint is always there, a guy who reminds me a bit of Ron Jeremy if Ron Jeremy was a five-foot three Mexican sans receding hairline and a dirty blonde attached to his schlong. While that doesn't provide the most appetizing image for eating tons of food, once you order up, all is forgotten. The best salsa in town is accompanied by limitless fresh chips and the salsa is so good (heavy on the oregano) I'm usually too full by the time my entree even gets to me. This is the first place I ever had a michelada (beer with hot sauce, lime juice, and shrimp garnish), now I get them all the time and nowhere does them up quite like here.
As far as the food, I always have thought they have the best carnitas in town. I didn't get carnitas today, but someone else at our table did, and I'm still right. Ryan ordered up a Carnitas Burrito, which is so fricking big no one could believe it. It also had the distinction of being so mucho carnitas that the verde sauce covering it had carnitas in the sauce. HUGE. I mean, who else tries to pull off that? (see pic). I got the fish tacos, Deb got shrimp tacos and we traded so we had one of each...if I could have fit in a dozen I would have eaten them all. The green rice is better than any other rice I've had in town. In fact, the only place that can rival this place for food quality in a non-taqueria setting is Milpas Street's outstanding Los Agaves.
You should plan on being there every Sunday afternoon. Micheladas, margaritas, perhaps a seafood cocktail that'll rock your world, and the afternoon sun. Perfecto.