September 14, 2010

La Palapa Grill - Best Mexican Food in Howard County

September 14, 2010

Wait – am I reading this right? Bog Ganoosh’s Baltimore Restaurant Reviews is giving props to Howard County establishment? What gives!? Well, we here at Bob Ganoosh like to give credit where credit is due, and this time the credit is due far beyond the city limits.

From downtown, one can take the scenic Frederick Road – once the only road from Baltimore to the West –on a narrow winding path through Baltimore County and into the quaint village of downtown Ellicott City. Ellicott City’s downtown is a hilly historical mill town, with a level of charm and character that is pleasantly uncharacteristic of Howard County, known mostly for its strip malls and cul-de-sacs. And Main Street has everything you would expect of an old mill village – antique shops, boutiques, and an awesome Mexican joint.

Ok, so maybe the Mexican restaurant doesn’t exactly fit into the theme of the town, but it is said restaurant that we at Bob Ganoosh are so excited about! And that restaurant is La Palapa Grill.

La Palapa is well known amongst the college crowd for its heavy-handed bar staff (the area does not have a particularly hopping night life, but is the only area with decent bars that is accessible from UMBC via taxi). But Shawn and I learned this past Friday that the joint serves up some respectable entrees as well. While sitting on their outdoor deck being serenaded by a guitar-yielding duo, we each debated fiercely between their unique dinner entrees and their renditions of the classics; we both chose the latter. Shawn chose the California burrito, a large burrito generously stuffed with beef, chicken, and a conglomerate of other flavorful ingredients. Not only was the burrito huge, but it was packed with flavor. For those familiar with the famous El Andariego near Olney, the best way we could describe this dish is to take the “Twins Burritos” from El Andariego and stuff them into one burrito. A power move, indeed.

I was swayed by the Texas Chimi, a beef and chicken burrito, fried and covered in a chili con queso sauce. And as long as you like cheese, I can promise you will love this dish. The con queso was plentiful, and the meat was well seasoned – the chimi had just the right amount of kick. Both dishes were adorned plentifully with refried beans and rice. I also threw in an a la carte beef taco in a soft shell, which was pretty much what I expected. But it was stuff so full that I had trouble keeping it all in one piece.

Our only disappointment was the lack of “corn cakes” in the kitchen – you know, that scoop of corn stuff that they used to give you at ChiChi’s. And I think they still give it out at Chevy’s. Shawn and I could live on that stuff. Also, the parking situation is rough – the city has a free municipal lot but even that was completely full – but that is a bit outside of the scope of their control.

Overall though, there is no way we could give this place anything less than 4 stars. Along with their excellent food and heavily-poured drinks (we confirmed this to be accurate), the service was prompt, and the drinks were unusually quick for table service. We never went thirsty.

So if you’re looking for some quality Mexican food and one hell of a margarita, just take a drive down old Frederick Road.

La Palapa Grill
8307 Main Street
Ellicott City, MD 21043

5-Star Rating
Food: ****
Service: ***
Ambiance: ***1/2
Price: $$$ ($20-35)

La Palapa Grill and Cantina on Urbanspoon



I only tried to go there once and they were charging $10 cover. I said screw this and went to Ellicott City Brewing Co. instead. No bar in Ellicott City should be charging cover.


Plus points for the shout-out to Chi-Chi's!


Thanks for the info Adam! That same logic explains why I have only been in O'Brien's (in Annapolis) enough times that I can count on one hand.

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