I met a girlfriend for happy hour at Papi's Cantina at 148 Lake St right after they opened a few weeks ago. It was a sunny day and apparently everyone in Kirkland had received the memo because the doors were open and the place was packed with curious $5 margarita seekers. Aesthetically, it's Milagro 2.0 (which was lots of stone and dark wood) with some colorful flags floating overhead to add a little zing.
I have shoes older than the adorable waitress that finally came by to squeeze in our happy hour drink order before 6pm and after much debate between the Papi's Margarita, Matcha Margarita and Spicy Cucumber Margarita, I went for the spicy. Which arrived not-so-spicy... or cucumbery. I sent it back and tried the Havana Margarita. I had to keep reminding myself to drink it, which for those that know me, is unusual. They use fresh-pressed juices and some of the mixers have to be steeped, so they are still working on perfecting their recipes and the waitstaff was quick to admit that, collect feedback and offer other suggestions. The menu offers Latin cuisine (from scratch!) in order to offer a broader range of flavor profiles. At first this was confusing to me when I glanced at the menu and saw items such as a burrito, paella, carne asada and then... a ribeye...and a burger?! But don't worry, it's a Latin thing! Danny Pentin (photo) from Papi's was filling me in on the preparation and sauces. Some friends popped over to our table and mentioned they had tried the ribeye and said it was amazing. My ceviche was a super generous portion and a delicious meal in itself. My friend thought her tacos were just ok. The chips were really good but the salsa tasted like ketchup. Perhaps this is also Latin, I wondered. When I told Danny he said there was a day when the prep chef forgot to add the chipotle to the salsa for the evening and they didn't figure it out for hours! So, clearly still new and ironing out the kinks.
I like that Papi's Cantina recognizes that they opened quickly- received the keys on 2/1 and opened 3/10- so they won't be perfect quite yet, but are very open to feedback and suggestions. Danny says, "We are still discovering what this community is about. Tell us what you want. We would like to be the best food and service in town." Future plans include live music and salsa dancing nights outside on the patio. They are mixing up the menu and adding daily specials too. And of course there's the Mexican Hat Dance that plays everyday at 5pm to kickoff $5 margaritas from 5-6 o'clock.
Hours are Sun-Thurs 11am-10pm and Fri/Sat 11am-12pm. Summer will likely have extended hours as they get the patio going for the nicer weather.