Mon | May 27, 2024

Papi Chulo Restaurant brings ‘Ja-Mexican’ flavours to Ocho Rios

Published:Thursday | April 4, 2024 | 12:06 AMKrysta Anderson/Staff Reporter
The restaurant’s signature beef tacos.
The restaurant’s signature beef tacos.
Capturing the taste of ‘where Mexico meets Jamaica’, this burrito bowl just got better with the island’s national dish, ackee and salt fish.
Capturing the taste of ‘where Mexico meets Jamaica’, this burrito bowl just got better with the island’s national dish, ackee and salt fish.
With tender chicken breast, corn, black beans, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers and, of course, cheese, this chicken quesadilla is the most popular item on the menu.
With tender chicken breast, corn, black beans, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers and, of course, cheese, this chicken quesadilla is the most popular item on the menu.
Communications specialist Sabriena Simpson was honoured to host the official opening.
Communications specialist Sabriena Simpson was honoured to host the official opening.
Celebrating the grand occasion, Renee Watson (left) and Peart Rose were happy to partake in the event’s festivities.
Celebrating the grand occasion, Renee Watson (left) and Peart Rose were happy to partake in the event’s festivities.
Meet the owners of Papi Chulo Restaurant, Micha Bennett (left) and Jemila Hamilton.
Meet the owners of Papi Chulo Restaurant, Micha Bennett (left) and Jemila Hamilton.
Entering the space for the first time and loving the delectable offerings are Ke-Andra Paisley (left), owner of Semaj Apparel, and her husband Stephen, owner of Paisley’s Collection.
Entering the space for the first time and loving the delectable offerings are Ke-Andra Paisley (left), owner of Semaj Apparel, and her husband Stephen, owner of Paisley’s Collection.
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When you hear the term ‘papi chulo’, pimp/cute daddy or father is usually the translation that follows suit. Likewise, in the culinary world, Papi Chulo is looking to be the godfather of inspiring Mexican flavour, with a local twist, in the Garden Parish of St Ann.

The brainchild of couple Jemila Hamilton and Micha Bennett, the eatery recently opened its doors in Ocho Rios, offering a wide variety of festive ‘Ja-Mexican’ dishes freshly prepared to whet, tantalise and satisfy your taste buds.

“Our tagline is ‘Where Mexico Meets Jamaica’, so it was very important that we create a Mexican-Jamaican fusion because a lot of people may not be welcoming of strictly Mexican flavours due to what they are used to culturally. Jamaicans cook with a lot of flavour so adding all those flavours to the Mexican style puts the food on a different level,” Hamilton told Food.

On the featured line-up is the chicken quesadilla, already starring the savoury show with its tender mouthwatering chicken breast, corn, black beans, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers and of course cheese. Then there is the quesadilla burger, which is a burger patty, served in a tortilla with nachos, cheese and other toppings.

For those hot dog lovers, you can look forward to sinking your teeth into the ‘Mexican bull dog’ and ‘dutty dawg’, pairing it with toppings like pico de gallo, made with Mexican salsa, jalapenos, minced beef, bacon and cheese.

“I think our menu stands out because we have a straight Mexican-themed menu and not many restaurants are doing that right now. Even though a few restaurants might have tacos or quesadillas or even wraps on their menus, they don’t have a full Mexican menu. But we are strictly Mexican-styled food, so that is what sets our dishes apart in the market,” Hamilton said.

Branching out from a home kitchen, Bennett came up with this brilliant idea to fuse the cultures locally after getting first-hand experience working overseas at a Mexican restaurant. “While in New York, I learned all the trades, how it’s done, all the techniques and I saw how convenient it was. I tried it and saw how good it tasted. Then I realised that Ocho Rios did not have a Mexican-themed restaurant and I saw the opportunity and the demand for that, so I said, why not be the one to do it?”

His love for food was only magnified by the support and motivation from his partner, who pitched in when plans progressed to a restaurant pop-up, which showcased him receiving way more orders than he had bargained for.

“I had to call my partner Jemila, who also operates her own lash and brow business, to assist me with deliveries because I was receiving more orders than I had imagined. As more persons learned about the business through word of mouth and social media, we outgrew our kitchen space and had to get a small location to operate from, along with employees. It was a little cookshop on a hill across from Sandals Resorts on the bypass. Persons had to park on the other side of the road and then come across to pick up, but we still got lots of support,” he said.

With the expansion in recent time, the owner came up with an unlikely name, birthed from a line in a song by popular hip hop artiste Drake. Despite the Spanish term having no correlation to food in its English translation, Bennett decided that it has a nice ring to it.

In curating the exciting menu, Hamilton took the Jamaican palate into serious consideration, designing the dishes in a delightful fashion. That way, locals would feel comfortable with familiar seasonings and spices, all while taking a new gastronomic adventure into flavour.

As the co-owners of Di Café, a cosy and quaint café located in Valu Drug Pharmacy on Ocean Village Shopping Centre in the parish, Bennett is already open to expanding Papi Chulo to multiple branches all across Jamaica.

His advice to others looking to go into the world of the culinary arts is to just start. “We introduced the food to our family and friends first and let them give me their opinion, then we made the changes as recommended. Remember, I started in my kitchen, so if I can do it, you can too!”

krysta.anderson@gleanerjm.com