La Palmera is still in a slightly bare bones stage but nonetheless about ready to open.

Image: Anne Dennon

The fire marshal is all that stands between you and La Palmera's carne asada, a marinated skirt steak recipe handed down from the owners' grandmothers. After two years of planning, preparing, and acquiring permits, the Mexican restaurant has made it to the last, lingering technicalities and is slated to open in two weeks' time, hopefully on March 16

Much of the menu at La Palmera comes from the composite family recipes of owners Hector and Amelia Mendoza, who met at the first La Palmera ("Palmera 1"), which first opened in Everett in 1991. They became business partners in the restaurant and went on to open a second location in Mill Creek. The two northern locations are known for their colorful, family-owned vibe, complete with fluttering flags and painted ceramic tile. On the high-traffic corner of Mercer and 9th in South Lake Union, the newest La Palmera is an elegantly low-lit, two-story space. Weathered gray wood, wrought iron railings and chandeliers, custom-made in the style of the couple's native Jalisco, provide Old Mexico ambiance. 

La Palmera touts a menu equally fitting for families wandering east from the Space Needle, tech workers on the lunch-hour hunt, and happy hour revelers looking for margaritas and nachos. Appropriate for the restaurant's broad appeal, there are a number of entrances. Come in through the patio to order street tacos from a dedicated station where they'll churn out fresh, handmade corn tortillas all day. Linger at the bar to sample fruit-infused waters and agave-sweetened margaritas. The tequila is from Tequila, like real champagne is from Champagne, and it's been specially made and branded for La Palmera. Everyone can appreciate the attention of the 50-person staff—"We are known for fast service," Amelia says.  

A taco teaser.

The SLU space was originally considered for the couple's other venture, the doughnut company Frost. (The two became partners in Frost six years ago.) But due to a noncompete clause, Frost, which has its own coffee menu courtesy Victrola Coffee Roasters, couldn't keep its coffee program and expand into the Amazon Bigfoot building with a Starbucks already having marked its caffeine territory. "Doughnuts go with espresso," Hector says, so they kept the coffee-pastry pairing intact, and ceded the space to Palmera 3.

While there won't be an SLU Frost, there is a sugar-spun silver lining: Alongside the Mexican dessert offerings of La Palmera (flan, churros, sopapilla, fried ice cream), the Mendozas will also bring in sweets from Frost, from doughnuts to cupcakes to macarons. 

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