Los Papi’s restaurant located at 77 Bridge Street is one of Dumbo’s best kept secrets. Loved by most, unknown to many, Los Papi’s Spanish Restaurant has survived Dumbo’s transition from an industrial neighborhood to a haven for start-ups but it hasn’t always been easy.
The late eighties and 1990’s were the glory days for Los Papi’s. During that era, the majority of their clientele were factory workers with healthy appetites from Puerto Rico, Mexico and the Dominican Republic. Their customer base was supplemented by a sprinkling of artists and artisans who at that time ruled the hood.
In the early 2000’s, the increasing popularity of Dumbo coupled with globalization caused the majority of local factories to flee the neighborhood. Manufacturing was leaving New York and the rents in Dumbo were skyrocketing. Business for Los Papi’s dropped a dramatic 40% and they have been striving ever since to compensate for their losses and attract new customers.
Greg M. relishes lunch at Los Papi’s. “It is the one eating establishment in Dumbo where people of all socio economic fractions mix and I like that. DUMBO can be very homogenous and Los Papi’s is a place where people of all backgrounds come and enjoy an authentic home cooked meal without busting the budget.” Musician Elad Cohen enjoys a Los Pappi’s lunch as an after yoga treat. Today he is here with his teacher Paula Cunha of Abaya Yoga. Paula who is vegetarian appreciates all of their vegetarian options. Elad loves everything, the beef, vegetables and especially the rice and beans. A big smile breaks out on his face as he states ”Delicious, I love this place.”
My personal favorite is the special fish which is not on the menu. You have to ask for it and wink. Grilled to perfection with peppers and onions, the flounder or tilapia, depending on the day, just melts in your mouth. Coupled with rice and beans and plantains, it is a most scrumptious way to start your afternoon.
Serrata, the managing partner of Los Papi’s wants to attract more customers from what he terms “Fancy Dumbo” His plans include expanding delivery borders, and serving extra generous portions. He states that he would like to improve service however according to customers, one can not find a more welcoming restaurant in all of Dumbo. The chef cooks to one’s specifications and remembers his customer’s preferences including the rice of your choice when it comes to pairing up the beans. Social media would surely boost sales and recognition, however, the staff and owner of Los Papi’s are so old school they thought Facebook and Instagram were new side dishes. it is worth mentioning they have stellar reviews on YELP.
Serrata’s desire to spruce up the interior, faces the greatest obstacle of all.. Although he has the capital to invest, Los Papi’s future is at risk. The controversial 85 Jay Street, Front and York project, could result in a potentially unfortunate situation. Los Papi’s has lost their lease. Although Serrata feels secure for now it is just a matter of time until his landlord sells the building. When that time comes it will mean a sad goodbye to Los Papi’s, a Dumbo icon . Our favorite rice and beans joint will be replaced by 767 luxury condos and apartments with separate swimming pools for renters and owners and an even more overcrowded F train.
While you would assume that business would have picked up due to the increased presence of construction workers that has not been the case. The 85 Jay Street project has closed off their street to parking which has served as a deterrent to some of their customers. In addition private individuals without permits show up at the construction site during lunch time bringing food in coolers and charging a buck or two less than Los Papi’s. While they have called 311 to report these illegal activities, the powers that be have not responded sufficiently to their concerns.
I advise my neighbors not to postpone taking advantage of this classic Dumbo eatery. The friendly atmosphere, excellent service and most of all fresh and delicious authentic Spanish cuisine, cooked with love renders Los Papi’s a neighborhood treasure.