I found Papi’s on a day when I couldn’t choose a place to eat. I ended up on Duluth Highway, heading south towards Lawrenceville. At roughly the intersection of 316 and Duluth Highway, I caught Papi’s out of the corner of my eye and turned. At the time I thought Papi’s was a “one of”. Only later did I find out it’s the fourth edition of a small Atlanta chain, and very well respected. At the time, though, I was just hungry and curious. I’d had conversations with men wanting to set up Cuban restaurants in the Lawrenceville area. Was this one of those, a new start up?
Inside, there were chairs and booths mostly circling around a bar in the middle. There was outside seating, but the day was too warm to really want to sit outside. The crowd ranged from ordinary families to beautiful couples dressed to the max. Staff was around; my waitress was good and dropped by my table often. Seating was soft and woven, as opposed to wooden, and the green plastic palm tree leaf place mats on the tables kind of cute.
Though there is Caribbean in the name, there is precious little Caribbean food here. It’s essentially a Cuban eatery, with the option of getting jerk wings and a jerk chicken sandwich. No peas and rice, no patés, none of the accoutrements of a serious Caribbean place. It does have a nice selection of Cuban foods. While looking over the menu, I ordered a salad and also a Cuban sandwich.
The salad was decent, not overwhelming. The mango vinaigrette wasn’t bad, but I’d much have preferred a balsamic. I don’t need stray sugar in my foods, and the mango product was a little sweet. The Cuban, as well, was good, and the shredded pork, ham slices, and melted cheese quite welcome. But the bread looked like a regular po’ boy loaf, and not the flatter grilled breads I’m accustomed to seeing with a Cuban sandwich. The taste was just a little different as well. As I had Cubans regularly when I lived in Orlando FL, it left me wondering what accommodations had been made in the sandwich so far “north”.
I’ll note that other reviewers (examples here and here) of other locations have much the same reaction, that the food is good and worth some trouble, but not really exceptional. As there is simply nothing like it in this part of Lawrenceville, I’m sure Papi’s will do well.
Papi’s Cuban and Caribbean
911 Duluth Highway
Lawrenceville, GA 30043
Other locations include:
745 Chastain Rd NW
Kennesaw, GA 30144
1375 Rock Quarry Rd
Stockbridge, GA 30281