By Mimi Wood, Island Eye News Staff Writer
“I’ve been here since Day One and it’s AWESOME.” exclaims Eliza Turnage, Wando student, islander, and hostess extraordinaire. Turnage isn’t the only thing that’s extraordinary about Papi’s Taqueria, Isle of Palms newest Front Beach eatery. For starters, the food is muy bueno.
As one would expect from a taqueria, tacos dominate the menu. Most everything served is sourced from local farms and fishermen, including the handmade corn tortillas from Mitla Tortilleria. Do not overlook the Maiz Callerjero, street corn the likes of which you’ve never tasted. Or seen. The presentation is truly a work of art.
A partnership, Papi’s is the brainchild of Brett Jones, owner of The Dinghy, a local watering hole also on Front Beach. Jones approached Benj Farmery, his longtime friend, and owner of the freestanding building that formerly housed “Splash,” a “landmark” IOP gift shop whose owner recently retired. Jones presented Farmery with the idea of opening a restaurant in the space. Perusing the list of partners Jones was proposing, Farmery “gave his blessing, and told Brett ‘Do what you want,’ recalls Eric Evaul, a partner and Papi’s General Manager.
“Brett pulled us all in to fill different roles,” Evaul continues. “His best friend is Wyatt Durrette,” a singer/songwriter whose catchy tune “Toes” helped put the Zac Brown on the map. As a matter of fact, lyrics to the song adorn the risers of the stairs ascending to Papi’s second floor.
Durette frequents Papi’s, when he’s not busy with his other restaurant, in Atlanta, or traveling with The Zac Brown Band. And although the bright, vintage-Mexican, beachy decor of Papi’s was “a collaborative effort of all the partners,” states Evaul, “Wyatt and his wife Kelly had the biggest part in it.”
Another partner, and tie to Zac Brown, comes in the form of Papi’s executive chef, Rusty Hamlin. Hamlin, a graduate of the Culinary Arts Institute of Lousiana, started his career in his native Baton Rouge.
When he met Brown a fast friendship formed; Hamlin has been traveling with and cooking for the band for almost a decade. Hamlin developed Papi’s menu and recipes, and is on site when not involved in his myriad of other activities.
“I’d be remiss not to mention our silent partner, Malcom Burgis,” notes Evaul. Burgis is the longtime owner of The Windjammer. More than a bar and entertainment venue, The Windjammer is a veritable institution on Front Beach.
Papi’s is open daily from 4 p.m. until 10 p.m. “Most weekends we are on wait after 6 p.m.,” states Evaul. “Weekdays are still a bit ‘hit or miss;’ some days we’re jammed while others not so much. We’re really trying to dial in to the locals,” he elaborates, “we are trying to bring a new option to the island…good food, and a place to hang out.”
That new option includes an ocean view from Papi’s rooftop bar, rivaled in beauty by the gorgeous hand-crafted cocktails; almost too pretty to drink. (Keyword: almost.) Plans for an event space on the second floor, adjacent to the rooftop bar, are just about final.
“Our intent is to accommodate up to 50 guests,” in the nearlycompleted Arriba Room, “for everything from corporate holiday gatherings to private birthday celebrations to rehearsal dinners to Superbowl parties,” explains Evaul. “We have a mini-kitchen up there, and can provide a private chef. We already have about half a dozen events booked,” he states.
“Down the road, we foresee the second floor space being utilized for entertainment. Given our connection to The Windjammer, we could host pre-show dinners and intimate acoustical sets prior to the main Windjammer event; kind of like a ‘VIP’ experience,” Evaul envisions.
Judging from chatter on local social media, Papi’s is a welcome addition to Isle of Palms. Better hurry and claim your status as a regular before it’s too late.
More information, including Papi’s Allergy Free Menu, may be found at PapisIOP.com