Have you heard the joke about the three legged dog?? Actually, the dog is no joke. He is alive and real, and so is the following review of La Palapa Bar in Panajachel Guatemala and Smokin’ Joes’ Barbeque.
In over 30 years of traveling to tropical Islands and beach towns; the one thing I have come to love is a great palapa bar. For those of you who are uninitiated; a palapa bar has a palm thatch roof, it is open on all sides to allow the ocean trade winds through, is usually located on a beach, has great music playing, and is filled with interesting characters of the sort your mother warned you to stay away from.
La Palapa Bar in Panajachel Guatemala is nowhere near a beach, or even the shore of Lake Atitlan Guatemala for that matter; but it fits my definition of a great bar in every other aspect. At any time of the day or night, you will find all the key ingredients mixing it up into a nicely flavored stew. The drinks are always served fast and cold, and the cheap prices make it hard to stop after one or six. They serve up a nice assortment of hot or cold sandwiches, and has some great thick cut French fries. The music system is great, but not played too loud to visit. And chatting it up with your new best friends is what a bar is all about after all. La Palapa is always filled with a great mix of volunteers, do-gooders, ex-pats, locals, and a few happy tourists. To make up for the lack of a beach, they have a big area filled with sand, tiki torches, and palm trees. Weekends hosts live music “on the beach” where you can kick off your shoes and dance in the sand.
Saturday afternoon is my favorite time to visit because Nestor “aka: Smokin’ Joe” and Luann fire up the BBQ pit and smoke some of the best southern style meats in the country. A weekend rarely passes that I am not there for Smokin’ Joes’ Barbeque. As Forest Gump said about shrimp, Nestor’s smoke graveled voice rattles off his choice of meats. Ya got your smoked beef; filet mignon, Jack Daniels steak, tenderloin, and hamburgers, then ya got your smoked chicken, smoked pork tenderloin, smoked ribs (my favorite), both beef and pork, smoked shrimp and fish. The Smokin’ Joes’ combo plates are for those who just can’t decide. He even has a veggie plate, although serving a veggie plate at a BBQ meat fest is like inviting your mother to a stripper party. You can do it, but it just ain’t right.
For the bargain price of 40 – 80 Quetzales you get a huge portion of meat, 3 sides, and cornbread or garlic bread. The sides vary every week, but can include potato salad, baked potato, coleslaw, mac-n-cheese, corn-on-the-cob, and a variety of veggie salads. Add to that homemade hot sauces and BBQ sauces and condiments, and your plate will be overflowing with a tasty meal that will set you for the rest of the day. All of Smokin’ Joes’ meats are hand trimmed, aged, and cured.
Like every good palapa bar, there is an odd assortment of village dogs hanging about. I know you Norte Americanos are not used to sharing floor space with a few friendly dogs. But after the famous three-legged dog hops up to your table to greet you, your heart will warm up to the idea and you may even offer to buy the dog a drink. She prefers a little left over ‘que, but is happy enough with a scratch between the ears. Every crazy character has a story to share in a bar like this, and if you hang around you will hear a few crazy tales of life on Lake Atitlan Guatemala; but this dog’s story beats them all. Come on down and meet them all!!!