I couldn’t wait to try the birria tacos ($10) at Papi Chulo’s Taqueria after it opened in The Box Factory in early September.
When I first visited the taqueria shop, the beef tacos met every expectation. They were crispy on the outside, satisfyingly juicy on the inside and were made even more flavorful by a small bowl of Mexican beef broth for dipping. But there was something missing.
It took a little over a month for Papi Chulo’s liquor license to come through. In the meantime, it allowed customers to order drinks from The River Pig, but it wasn’t able to serve its lime, passionfruit, strawberry or spicy margaritas.
Papi Chulo’s now has its liquor license and is serving its own cocktails, beer, tequila and mezcal. Upon my second visit, I ordered Papi’s margarita ($10), on the rocks with Pueblo Viejo Blanco, triple sec and lime. Instead of a salted rim, I opted for Tajín seasoning. Not only did the Tajín lend a beautiful touch of color to the drink, it gave the classic margarita a delightful tangy flavor.
For lunch, I ordered several of the most popular tacos: the cochinita ($3.75), the verduras ($3.50) and the camarones ($4). The verduras and cochinita tacos were prepared to perfection. The melted cheese in the verduras tacos followed the thin line of being chewy without being overcooked. The layer of cheese revealed wild mushrooms, chopped slightly spicy sautéed poblano pepper and corn underneath.
The slow-cooked pork was the star of the delectable cochinita taco. The tender pork was dripping with juice the spice lingered. The pickled onions added a crunch and the habanero sauce was faintly sweet.
The camarones tacos didn’t beg for another bite in the same way as the other two tacos, but the cold shrimp was appropriately seasoned, and the Mexican coleslaw offered a crunch. All of the tacos were wrapped in a stone-ground, organic corn tortilla made by the Three Sisters Nixtamal in Portland.
For those that can’t get enough of the birria tacos, Papi Chulo’s makes a “quesabirria quesadilla” ($12) and a birria burrito ($12).
Papi Chulo’s is set up to order at the counter. As I placed my order, the server happily answered my questions about the menu, making an effort to offer suggestions.
Even with snow on the ground, dining inside Papi Chulo’s gave the impression of eating at a restaurant in a warmer climate. The furniture was every color of the rainbow and an awe-inspiring mural by artist Katie Daisy made the space feel warm as music blared over the speakers.
Location: The Box Factory, 555 NW Arizona Ave., #60, Bend
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Price Range: $3.50-$15
Cuisine: Taco shop