Tasty, hand-crafted Mexican food: Hampden’s Papi’s Tacos

Back in what had been Dimitri’s, one of Hampden, Baltimore’s non-ironic dive bars, is now a second location for Papi’s Tacos. It’s a cute, casual, tiny little spot serving good quality eats and drinks.

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There are a number of craft beers and cocktails; I tried a featured beer with fruit notes, good with spicy food. It’s the same concept as with wines: the fruity ones are good with spicy, ethnic cuisine. I tried the (very affordable at $4) slightly carbonated Muse Rose Ale, that’s brewed with white grape and raspberries, with a 4.5% alcohol content.

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Papi’s Tacos doesn’t have monster portions (though I did end up with a small takeout container), but the cooking is nicely done and everything is affordable. Guacamole is labeled as “tableside”, though it’s more accurate to say that the last finishing touches of mortaring are done at the table. A molcajete is filled with avocado, white onions, jalapeno, plum tomato, cilantro, garlic, “fire salt” and lime. It’s left fairly chunky, so you can eat their home fried tortilla chips or use a fork.

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I’ve made my own pozole, but it’s a complicated affair involving disposable gloves. So, I cheated and ordered it there! It’s pork and hominy with guajillo, a choice of salsa roja or verde (I wasn’t asked, but I would have ordered roja and fortuitously, that’s what I got), served with garnishes of chopped radishes, cilantro, onion, lime and chips. It wasn’t as spicy as other pozoles I’ve had or made, but I’m sure that makes it more universally appealing. It’s flavorful with tender meat and lots of herbs, like thyme. Complex flavors. For $2, you can top it with over-easy eggs. It comes with a super cute presentation! It was a rainy night and hot pozole hit the spot.

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The queso fundido was probably the best I’ve ever had. Sure, pretty much all forms of melted cheese are delectable, but the quality cheese and many layered flavors elevate theirs. Plus, you can get many different meats and other things mixed in, for an additional fee: chorizo, “gringo meat” (ground beef), chicken tinga, veggies, tilapia, carnitas, short rib, carne asada, shrimp, barbacoa, lengua (tongue) al pastor (spit-grilled meat) or Beyond Meat. I asked the server between a couple of choices and she recommended the short ribs. They were nicely shredded, mildly seasoned, true comfort food. I’d also be interested in trying the lengua; though my mom no longer eats meat, she made tasty tongue when I was growing up. Tongue is a very fatty part of beef.

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The queso was chihuahua and cotija infused with poblano, jalapeno, Mexican green onions and mulato chiles. If all you’ve ever had was fake orange processed cheese dip, you’ll be surprised how good this is. It’s not too fatty, not too salty. Their seasoning adds oompf without overpowering the rich dairy.

They deliver via Doordash to nearby locations.

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