Note: As of March 20, Las Palmas is officially closed.
Las Palmas is not one of those Mexican restaurants with a 8-page menu featuring a gazillion combination plates with mix-and-match versions of everything. If you suffer from menu vertigo, the streamlined take on Tex-Mex at Las Palmas will calm you down, as will the pleasant, sunny dining room.
Originally called Las Palmas Deli, it was located on Sherman Avenue across from Burrows Park -- where Gaston's is now -- then it closed, came back as a food cart on the Square, and then re-established itself in this brand new building on East Wash where it's neighbors with People's Bakery.
The menu concentrates on the basics of Mexican-American cuisine: taco salad, burritos, quesadillas, tacos, tamales (pork and chicken only), and enchiladas ($4.50-$7). No lard is used in the beans, which are tender pink pinto beans that retain their bean shape, versus the pool of refried bean favored by some. I usually prefer the mashed version (after the best refritos I ever had at a little place on a side street in Galveston, Texas, years ago) but these were pleasant all the same as a side. Spoon on the salsa if you long for a little kick, though.
Maybe because the menu offerings are mainstream, I found myself attracted to the daily specials on recent visits.
A vegetarian torta (sandwich, $5.25) came decked with lettuce, avocado, jalapenos and salsa on a bolillo bun. Actually I should say "crusty bolillo bun" since that's the phrase usually applied to bolillo buns, although sometimes you see "soft." This one was a little dry and the filling was nice but a tad bland -- best with the jalapenos included in-bite to liven it up.
Another daily special, the chicken mole plate, featured luscious stewed chicken and a not-too-sweet mole poblano sauce over not-too-greasy rice. While this was a great Tex-Mex comfort dish, I wished the mole had a little more going on -- it didn't have much spice complexity. But even so, I'd order it again. At $7, it was a filling but not overwhelming lunch that came with a cup of fresh salsa and chips, beans, and a small salad. This felt healthier than many Mexican platters that come obscured by melted cheese, with rice that leaves orange grease stains all over the plate. Whether it actually was healthier, I can't say.
From the regular menu, the chicken tamales are my top choice, although I wish they came in a chile/cheese version.
Desserts include flan, fried ice-cream, cheesecake and a special tres leches (three-milk) cake. Beer and margaritas are also available and breakfast is served on weekends.
The next-nearest "Mexican" restaurant in the area is Taco Bell... and if you're in the East Wash/East Johnson Street area, it's worth the upgrade to Las Palmas.