facebook pixal

How La Palapa is still going strong after 20 years, 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.

Subscribe on Apple Podcasts

Subscribe on Spotify

Also, we are now on Alexa. Log into your Amazon account, look for “Menu Feed podcast” to enable the skill. Once it’s enabled, all you need to do to listen is say, “Alexa, play ‘Menu Feed.’”

Members help make our journalism possible. Become a Restaurant Business member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.


Exclusive Content


Developing a restaurant? Why not just hit your head with a hammer?

Reality Check: The industry's rebound is being hampered by a host of construction and permitting issues. And the near-term outlook isn't good.


Despite a host of concerns, restaurant franchisees remain optimistic

The Bottom Line: Margins took a hit last year and inflation remains a concern. But a new survey says most franchise operators are optimistic. Here’s why.


Domino's executives spend a lot of money on pizza

The company reimburses its executives for their purchases of Domino’s food, which gives us some insight into their pizza-buying habits. CEO Russ Weiner bought $7,000 worth of pizzas last year.


More from our partners