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How La Palapa is still going strong after 2 decades, with Barbara Sibley at the helm

Through a blend of culinary expertise, compassion and resiliency, Sibley has successfully steered the NYC Mexican restaurant through numerous crises.

Barbara Sibley opened La Palapa 20 years ago, bringing authentic regional Mexican cuisine to New Yorkers who thought nachos, fajitas and burritos were what Mexican food was all about. While the menu has evolved over the years, there are many “untouchables” that she will never take off. This became especially apparent during the pandemic, when regulars were comforted by ordering the menu items they had come to love.

The pandemic was just one of several crises La Palapa has endured over two decades. Sibley also navigated the restaurant and her team through 9/11, Hurricane Sandy and hundreds of day-to-day potholes along the way, leading with a blend of compassion, flexibility and resiliency.

Barbara Sibley
Barbara Sibley/photo: Stefano Giovannini

Her incomparable operational style and extensive community outreach earned Sibley the 2022 Operator of the Year award from the Bar and Restaurant Show. Listen as she tells La Palapa’s story and shares details about her newest concepts, two taco bars and Holiday Cocktail Lounge.

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