Restaurant Review: El Papi
Mexican eats and drinks are no farther than a drive downtown.
Raul Duran developed the El Papi menu.
It’s easy to fall in love with Mobile — the architecture, the history, the coastline and the welcoming residents all lure you in and make you feel at home. When Charles Morgan, of Destin’s Harbor Docks fame, and his business partner Cris Eddings rolled into town two years ago to open Five Bar, Mobilians gave them a warm welcome. The duo expanded not long afterward with their second restaurant, Chuck’s Fish. Now the dining impresarios have done it again with El Papi: a downtown cafe, with delicious Mexican dishes and vibrant cocktails, that has been a hit since opening night.
Eddings co-owns nine of Morgan’s 14 restaurants that spread out across Florida, Alabama and Tennessee. “Downtown [Mobile] is truly unique and is full of so many wonderful restaurants. We love being a part of that community,” says Eddings, who now calls the Port City his home.
When the space next to Five Bar became available, Eddings and Morgan couldn’t resist the chance to remake the space. “The courtyard was so fabulous, and so we jumped.” The team hired local architect Robert Maurin to reimagine the outdoor dining area with a more modern vibe and welcoming approach. Birmingham artist and fabricator Sonya Emanuel created metal signs and wall dividers for the patio area that are a standout.
Meanwhile, Raul Duran began work on the menu. Born and raised in the state of Michoacan, Mexico, Raul revived some old family recipes and crafted a menu that is recognizable but fresh and delicious. Nothing too crazy going here — just solidly good burritos, tacos, fajitas and other Mexican staples. With much prodding, Raul admits that his personal favorite is the Chile Verde Pork, with slow-braised meat in a green sauce that hits with just the right amount of kick. “It’s not the prettiest dish on the menu, but its one you can’t put down.” Sop up the delicious sauce with a warm tortilla.
The cocktails are exciting, with plenty of mezcal, tequila and rum to go around. If you’re feeling bold, try the Mexican Ashtray, a Tecate beer with hot sauce, lime and a Tajín-seasoned rim. ¡Ay, caramba!
On the Menu
Carne Asada Bowl (above right)
Choose from nine different proteins including chorizo, braised beef cheek, Gulf fish and more to top these hearty lunch bowls,. A base of Mexican rice gets topped with street corn, avocado and sliced radish, with a dash of crema and queso.
A slightly smoky, not-too-sweet mezcal margarita that is frothy with a hint of pineapple and goes down a little too easy. It’s made with Ilegal Joven mezcal, triple sec, agave, pineapple and lemon, served with a tradtional salted rim.
Chicken Burrito Especial
A massive tortilla is stuffed with arroz rojo, esquites (Mexican street corn), lettuce, purple cabbage, avocado, pico de gallo and pickled serrano peppers. It’s grilled and topped with chile con queso and a splatter of crema.