BY Claudio E. Cabrera
Address: 223 Dyckman St
Decor: With the elegant decor of restaurants and bars like Corcho, Mamajuana, and Il Sole on the Dyckman strip, I was expecting more of the same from its newest restaurant, Papasito Mexican Grill + Agave Bar. But surprisingly, the decor at the restaurant is the complete opposite of its neighbors. More than anything, it hits the right notes as it resembles a classic, old western Mexican restaurant with its emphasis on dark woods.
Before it’s opening, Papasito looked like a restaurant of epic proportions. With all the buzz surrounding it, many thought it would be huge; but it’s actually small to the point that it gets a bit uncomfortable when seated.
Upon entering, you are escorted to tables that are too near each other. There is a couch area towards the far left of the restaurant, but that seems to be the only area with real space. On numerous occasions, customers had to squeeze through tight aisle-ways to reach the restrooms or their seating area.
Ambiance: When you enter any restaurant on Inwood Boulevard, you feel like you’re on Ocean Drive on South Beach; especially in the summer with the open-air seating and the almost pregnant with energy Dyckman Street surrounding you.
Inwood Boulevard – as many like to call it – may be the only 3-block stretch in Manhattan that is engulfed in energy seven days a week. Papasito capitalized on this and excels in being a “scene establishment.” A place where some go to spend their money on a restaurant they enjoy, while others go because of the scene, the people you are around and who you can meet; not necessarily the food.
Food: The food at Papasito, while tasty, did not sweep me off my feet. The massive three-burrito meal will send you into a food-induced coma, but they don’t compare to others at popular joints like Mama Mexico on the Upper West Side. The Tacos, which come in over five different flavors were delicious, but came in extremely small portions. The skirt steak with mashed potatoes and the filet mignon, two of their platos fuertes, were sub par despite their beautiful presentation.
Drinks: The drinks at Papasito and its Monday-Thursday Happy Hour are the best in the neighborhood. Unlike other establishments, Papasito makes sure to give you drinks that have the same strength of the people whose cuisine they are evoking.
Recommendations: Mango Mojito, Rio Grande (vodka, strawberry, basil) and Baja (rum, tequila, pineapple, and coconut) will all have you struggling to wake up the next day. So please, if you’re going to have these drinks, it must occur early after work or on a weekend. You may have trouble waking up from these because they’re so well made, you will be asking for more.
Service: In my two visits to Papasito, I had the same waiter and he provided us with excellent service. He was extremely attentive (dressed in a Guayavera shirt as all waiters and waitresses are) and gave us drink and dinner recommendations. He even steered us towards plates that would ‘fill us up’ in comparison to smaller serving dishes.
Affordability: Considering the median income of this neighborhood is in the low 30’s, I’m surprised by the expensive prices at Papasito. Dinner entrees begin at 18.00 and specialty drinks start at $12.00.
Most new restaurants in our neighborhood seem to aim high to target the newer residents, but hopefully, they will lower their prices to make this a place that can be dined at by everyone in our community.
Overall Grade: Papasito receives an overall grade of B. While the ambiance, drinks, and the energy of this establishment are great, the pricing, quality of the food and cramped interior suggest they have more work to do.