I’m a Maryland girl. That means I know a lot about things like Old Bay, crab cakes, and snow cones, but that my knowledge is lacking in areas such as authentic Mexican food and what a real Texas steak should taste like. However, I recently got back from my first trip to L.A. and one of my many demands was to eat all of the tacos. Now that I’ve had my experience enjoying food purchased in a gas station parking lot, I think I have a better idea of what’s real and what’s imagined up by the United States. Papa Grande’s, a SoDel concept in Fenwick, falls somewhere in the middle.
Like most beach spots, if you’re stopping by sometime between June and the first week of September, be prepared for an hour or more wait. Since there are tacos and burritos on the menu, it can inch closer to two as this is a safe option for families who want options that children around ten will eat without a fight. Prepare to either eat at 5 or 9, as from my experience, there are few other options for summer dining here.
While I normally opt for corn tortillas filled with soft-shell crab or pork, the last time I stopped into this hotspot, I elected to try the special, a Deep Fried Catfish Burrito. Big enough for two, this burrito exploded with the fried fish, black beans, rice, and was accompanied with a side of fresh salsa. Digging in, the fish was a touch dry, but the glob of guacamole on top of the burrito helped. Their Short Rib Burrito, which is always on the menu and served with a healthy ladle of melty cheese on top, was more satisfying when I tried that, it’s the one I would order again. Either way, come with an appetite.
On the less authentically believable side were their Shaved Brussels Sprouts, a dish I could eat every day, but one that doesn’t exactly scream ‘MEXICO’ despite the pepitas and cojita mixed in with the greens. Thinly shaved and raw, this bowl of one of the less popular veggies had just the right amount of crunch. As a fan of conservatively dressed salads, the sweet corn vinaigrette was enough to keep my mouth from feeling like the Sahara while also allowing the vegetable to shine. So, maybe not a dish I’d find after a day visiting Tulum, but certainly good enough to order every time I vacation at the beach.
Of course, there are some standard favorites that I always recommend for those not willing to dive into the mysterious specials. If you like all things cheesy and bad for you, their Original Queso Fundido is an effective way to both clog all of your arteries and fulfill the desire for decadent appetizers. The chile dust and lime on this option elevate it from microwaved Velveeta, which is a win in my book. You also can’t stop into this spot without a few orders of the Street Corn. I could inhale three orders of it myself. The cojita cheese, the red chile dust, and the cilantro coat the sweet corn in a rich, creamy layer of herbaceous deliciousness. This is no buttery summer corn that’s overly salted, it’s so much more.
The food may not be tripe purchased off a food truck, but Papa Grande’s is my favorite way to scratch my itch for Mexican food around here. I appreciate what they try and do here, and I think you will too. I, for one, think this is the best time of year to enjoy the quieter beach atmosphere and take advantage of those off-season deals. So, after you drown yourself in gravy this weekend and are ready for something different, stop by Papa Grande’s. Mail me some churros on your way back!