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Papagayo - who else has been?

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I have been hotly anticipating the opening of Papagayo for weeks now. My husband and I live in South Boston and were excited to have a new Mexican place open up nearby (since I find Salsa's in Southie to be inedible). We went to Papagayo early in the evening on Saturday - its first weekend open, I believe. Knowing that I was willing to be fairly patient and understanding with a restaurant during its first few weeks. Also, I am from Southern California, so I judge Mexican offerings against extremely high standards, but I know what I'm up against in Boston (i.e. mostly terrible Mexican food) so I was prepared to judge Papagayo's by standards relative to the area. With all that in mind, it was a generally positive experience, marked by growing pains and room for improvement.

The Good:
- Chips were delicious, salsa was better than average for the Boston area (not a lot of cilantro, but heavy on the green onions, which I enjoyed).
- Queso fundido was faaaaabulous -- seriously, it was different (in a good way) from any queso I have ever had before. Do not think "orange" and "from a jar". It was dense and full of chorizo. It was almost like a chorizo/cheese loaf, it was so thick. It came served inside a small cast-iron pot, along with several flour tortillas. The serving looked small to us initially, but it was so thick and rich, the two of us actually couldn't finish it all. We both loved it and I will go back to Papagayo specifically to order this again.
- Husband had the made-to-order Guac and liked it very much; I stuffed myself on too much salsa and queso fundido to get into the gauc.
- Husband ordered the fish tacos for his entree and liked them very much.
- The prices! It is so great to have an inexpensive/moderately priced restaurant in the Fort Point/South Station area, especially in an under-served genre. There were a few entrees in the high teens, but it would be very easy to have a full meal with drinks and not pay more than $10-11 for any one item.

- I ordered the "frozen" pomegranate margarita and it arrived almost completely melted, after a very long wait. I pointed this out politely to the server and he said something to the effect that only the original, house margarita could really be made frozen. I (again, politely) suggested that that be made clear on the drink menu - because when I ordered a frozen, flavored margarita, as listed on the menu, I expected it to arrive frozen, not melted with one or two small ice pieces floating at the top.
- That said, I took one sip of the drink and decided not to send it back (which the server took great pains to offer several times, to his credit) because it was so delicious. Plus, the wait had already been so long for my first, melted drink, I had no idea how long it would take to receive my replacement. I thought the house tequila was definitely a cut above what one usually receives in a standard order margarita at a place like this.

- The service was scattered, to put it nicely. It felt as though the manager had hired a bunch of people who had never worked in a restaurant before. Our waiter was very polite and tried to be attentive but our orders were mixed up several times. I noticed that going on at all of the tables surrounding us as well - total confusion regarding which order was going to which table, etc. Sometimes our waiter would show up at our table to "check in" several times in five minutes, then he would disappear for half an hour.
- There were no salt/pepper shakers on the table. Which, okay, fine, I know some restaurants don't "do" that. But this isn't No. 9 Park, I expect to at least be able to get some salt & pepper upon request. I asked the waiter during our first course and he looked at me like he was shocked I would request such a thing. He said "We don't really have salt and pepper to provide, but I'll see what I can do" and returned to the table with an industrial-sized sea salt dispenser. It was so awkward. If they're not going to put them out on the table (and I really think in such a casual restaurant, that isn't too much to ask), they should really have some appropriate-sized shakers in the back, available upon request.
- I ordered the beef enchiladas as my entree and they were way, way sub-par. Absolutely everything tasted like it came out of a can/jar/package. The rice, in particular, was really bad. The enchilada sauce tasted dusty and processed. The beef inside was actually okay, but also nothing to be impressed by - just not as bad as the other elements. The menu listed that it was available served with either salsa roja or salsa verde, but when I ordered it with the salsa verde, the waiter informed me that they restaurant "wouldn't be offering salsa verde". Well, okay, but they ought really ought to update their menus ASAP, because that makes a very poor first impression. Not to mention that, the "salsa roja" that was now the only option was terrible.

HOWEVER, I am giving Papagayo an overall POSITIVE recommend because I think a place like this is good for the neighborhood. I really liked our appetizers, the drinks (save for the "frozen" misnomer), the prices and my husband really enjoyed his entree. I thought the space was big and beautiful, with just the right level of nice, but not-too-nice for a place like this. There were plenty of items on the menu that I wanted to try, so I will cross enchiladas off the list and move on to something else next time and hope for better results. I'm not ready to write Papagayo off for a few missteps in their first week open. There's enough to love already and enough potential that I'm going to go back a few more times (after they settle in) and wish them good luck.

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  1. Thanks for a detailed review! I didn't realize this place had opened. Withholding judgement till I try it myself, but this restaurant group's formula doesn't lead me to expect extraordinary food, or a very traditional take on Mexican. The fact that they serve blender drinks is kind of funny, and telling. They are more about slinging drinks and serving family-friendly, value-priced comfort food, as a rule. Regardless, always good to have more options in that neighborhood, and I'm curious to check out the tequila selection and pricing.


    4 Replies
    1. re: MC Slim JB

      MC Slim JB I am a fan of blender drinks in Mexican restaurants, but licuados as opposed to frozen margaritas. :-) Taqueria La Mexican or Taqueria Mexico are better bets for that and overall (including bar chow at cantina la mexicana), although I could indulge myself in the queso as cbw_chowfan described right about now.

      Taqueria Mexico
      CLOSED, Brookline, MA

      1. re: MC Slim JB

        not a fan of frou-frou drinks myself, but had a watermelon-habanero maragarita at the soft opening and it was really good. especially with the killer tortilla chips.

        1. re: hotoynoodle

          Well, in the interest of a full disclaimer: I am not a fan a big fan of tequila, so I tend to go for the "frou frou", flavored margaritas -- NOT the most authentic variety, and I am aware of that. However, if its identified on the menu as a "frozen" margarita, that usually suggests in icey, blended drink. What I got was thoroughly melted, with one tiny ice piece bobbing at the top. Not even what one would expect from a REAL margarita. Once I pointed it out, the waiter immediately offered to bring me something else. But I felt like the restaurant shouldn't even be serving a "frozen" drink in that state in the first place.

          That said, the flavor of the drink was delicious and I ended up being happy with it, despite the menu's misleading description. It almost made me want to give tequila another chance, as the tequila flavor, in particular, was very smooth and inoffensive (again, coming from someone who usually finds it to be).

          1. re: cbw_chowfan

            not disavowing your dislike. :)

            btw, opening gm already 86'ed.

      2. Agree with your comments on the enchiladas (I had the chicken) Also tried to order the salsa verde and was told it was not available. Actually thought the beans were worse than the rice; a tasteless glob of mush.
        On the plus side the Tacos De Atum (spiced tuna) was excellent and a pan seared chorizo dish was verry good. The drinks were also very good although served by a self impressed bartender that rubbed me the wrong way.
        Everyone was very friendly, almost to a fault.

        1. Was at Papagayo last night for dinner with some friends. We ordered two pitchers of sangria without consulting the menu...big mistake. Each pitcher was $42! Seems a little high when you consider a glass of sangria is $8. If I go back, I'll be sure to double check prices before I order a drink!

          283 Summer St, Boston, MA 02210

          1 Reply
          1. re: katbridg

            I guess it depends on the size of the pitcher and the quality of the sangria. Dali in Somerville does one I like a lot. Glass: $7, small pitcher (3-4 glasses): $22, large (7-8 glasses): $38.