Review:
El Papa’s Mexican Bistro
Alex Hall, 04-15-2019

The front of El Papa's Mexican Bistro on Howe Ave.
Alex Hall
While a lot of new businesses are opening and thriving on Front Street since the pedestrian mall was reopened to traffic last winter, there are still many businesses with increasing traffic along Howe Ave. in the Chapel Hill area. Of course, there have been some closures, chief among them Toys ’R’ Us, and, as recently announced, Pat Catan’s, which is closing this year. Nevertheless, new businesses are opening up; El Papa’s Mexican Bistro is one such business, offering quality, yet typical Tex-Mex cuisine alongside some authentic (and not-so-authentic) Mexican dishes.

Most Americans think of Tex-Mex cuisine as “Mexican food,” but there is a significant difference between the two. El Papa’s Mexican Bistro is definitely on the Tex-Mex end of the spectrum. They are quick to place chips and salsa on the table as customers wait for a server to take drink orders, and the salsa is not flat and mild like some salsa, but flavorful and a touch spicy. The server may need to bring the drinks quickly for people who are especially sensitive to heat, but for those who like spicy food, there is just enough chile.

El Papa’s serves a variety of margaritas alongside Mexican and domestic beers, of course, and there are always drink specials. Apart from the usual Tex-Mex fare, there are some offerings that are authentic Mexican specialties. The Cocktail de Shrimp would be called “Coctel de Camarones” in Mexico, and El Papa’s version is the same as in any restaurant in Michoacán, the Mexican state from which El Papa’s owners hail. On the other hand, the ceviche—which isn’t on the menu but served all the same—doesn’t come across as authentic itself. Ceviche is a traditional Mexican fish dish where the fish is “cooked” in a combination of citrus juices and mixed with tomato, jalapeño, onion, and cilantro. It is most often served on tostadas, and since it takes a fair amount of fish to make it, it isn’t something that can be ordered a la carte. El Papa’s offered to make it a la carte on our visit, however, and suggested the shrimp version, but what we received was precooked shrimp on a tostada with lettuce, pico de gallo, and avocado, also known as a shrimp tostada. While it was tasty, it was not ceviche. Still, the fish tacos we sampled were some of the best we’ve had, and the chili con queso was a little better than the usual variety as well. The portions were also big enough to ensure we didn’t have room for flan or sopapillas.

All in all, El Papa’s Mexican Bistro has the makings of a Mexican mainstay in Cuyahoga Falls.

El Papa's Mexican Bistro is located at 400 Howe Ave. next to GameStop.


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