Cochinita pibil was created in the Yucatan. Cooks take pork, cover it in achiote paste and orange juice, wrap it in banana leaves, and slow-cook it in a stone pit for hours. Antonio Javier Palma Caceres, the chef behind the soon-to-open Papi Chulo’s, grew up in the Yucatan; he doesn’t have a pit for his cochinita pibil, but he made sure it had its place on the menu — juicy, slow-cooked pork, wrapped in a corn tortilla, topped with pickled onions.
His restaurant finally opens today, a Pearl District taqueria with design elements reminiscent of Californian and Mexican taquerias — his partner, Davide Bricca, lived in Los Angeles as a teenager. True to central Mexican design, the walls are covered in painted invitations into the space. Papi Chulo’s name appears painted on the hood of the open-format kitchen; on the other side of the pass, a painting of a large Corona bottle with a lime stuck in its neck appears on the white walls of the taqueria. A mounted Marlin stares over the ordering counter, where customers can order tacos, burritos, and cocktails.
In the kitchen, Caceres primarily sticks to tacos. He starts with Three Sisters masa, hand-made into tortillas, which he then fills with an assortment of proteins: Sautéed cod with chile de arbol, slow-cooked beef with guajillo chile salsa, slow-cooked lengua with habanero. A favorite among the staff is the restaurant’s birria, which the restaurant makes with beef as opposed to goat, served in dorados with the side of customary broth.
Bricca handles the cocktails, which he batches but still with attention to detail: He makes his pepper margarita with a house-made syrup, using five different peppers including poblanos and habaneros. His strawberry lime margarita, the princesa, uses a house strawberry syrup and fresh lime juice. Beyond the margaritas, the restaurant also serves a paloma, michelada, and bloody mary; the last two come with a rim of tajin. Explore the rest of the menu and the space below: