Walk in to almost any restaurant in Hayes Valley and you'll see a crowd full of people having dinner or drinking at the bar. Depending on what time you arrive, expect to wait a bit for a table to open up. Papito West is no different but what keeps people excited and coming back for more is their creative spin on Mexican food.
Patrick and I were invited to have dinner as guests of the house on a popular Friday evening and while the restaurant isn't exactly our ideal dining setting, there were two dishes that won us over that we'd come back for.
Papito West in a Nutshell
Papito West is owned by restaurateur Jocelyn Bulow, known for Chez Papa Bistrot and Chez Maman, two restaurants that I enjoy dining at. This new Mexican spot is a follow-on to the Potrero Hill neighborhood Papito that he opened in 2010. David Alexander is the co-owner and manager of the Hayes Valley location.
The restaurant serves organic Mexican food and the menu, prepared by Chef Efren Villalobos (Mamacita's Restaurant), includes antojitos, tacos, burritos, quesadillas, platos fuertes, a raw bar with oysters and ceviche, desserts, beer, wine and six flavors of agua fresca.
The Dining Space & Setting
We fell in love with the dia de los muertos-inspired mural by artist Matthew James McGowan. It was nice to see a lot of natural lighting shining through the front windows. The actual space inside of the restaurant is very cozy with little room for movement or privacy. While we enjoyed the casual nature of the restaurant, the noise level was pretty high for us, so if your experience is anything like ours, you can expect to hear your dining neighbors' conversations, which was hard to mute off. There are 32 seats in the dining room, 8 at the bar and, weather permitting, outside seating for 8.
The crudo is made with striped bass, avocado mousse, jicama, mango, radish, fish chicharron & mexican sea salt. It was beautifully plated and many flavor components were at play, but the taste didn't match up to our expectations and the crudo lacked balance. The freshness of the fish was masked with too much acidity from the citrus marinade and salt.
Fish Baja Tacos (2 for $9, 4 for $15, 10 for $35)
The fish tacos were very dreamy. The fish was very plump and the Negra Modelo batter was fried to crispy perfection, not overly greasy. The purple cabbage slaw added a nice brightness to the tacos with a bit of smokiness from the chipotle remoulade.
Carnitas de Pato Tacos (2 for $9, 4 for $15, 10 for $35)
The duck confit carnitas tacos had an influence of Vietnamese flavors that we didn't expect using sweet and slightly-sour pickled daikon and carrots, garnished with some mint. The tamarind sauce contributed to a nice sweet and tangy taste. I was glad we tried this out but it's not something we'd get again.
Papito Quesadilla ($13.5)
If there's one thing you can't miss ordering at Papito West, this is it. The tempura shrimp quesadilla with chipotle remoulade and purple cabbage slaw is delicious. You get a lovely crunchy bite from the shrimp tempura and the flour tortilla. The flavors are nicely balanced between the bright slaw, cheese, and shrimp.
Our dinner ended nicely with a few churros filled with dulce de leche and a side of whipped cream and chocolate dipping sauce. It was very satisfying and we loved the crispy sugary texture of the churros.
Papito West is a fun restaurant to dine at if you don't mind the crowd and high noise-levels. While the restaurant setting wasn't ideal to our dining preference, we enjoyed their creative spin on Mexican food and loved the fish baja tacos and shrimp tempura quesadilla. If we're in the area and there are empty seats, we'd go back to check out some of the other dishes we had our eyes on.
Thanks so much for dinner, Papito West!
Visiting Papito West
425 A Hayes Street in San Francisco, CA
- Mon - Fri: 11:30am - 11pm
- Sat - Sun: 10am - 4pm (brunch), 4pm - 11pm