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Jorge Baralles Sr. first began working for the restaurant group Table 301 as a dishwasher in 1997, in Greenville, South Carolina. After years with the company, Baralles and his family wanted to start their own restaurant, so Table 301’s owner Carl Sobocinski outfitted Baralles with an unused space beneath one of the restaurants for a “stationary food truck.”
Since opening its first location in 2013, Papi’s Tacos has grown to three stores, two of which share space with a craft beer pub, the Growler Haus. The second location was in nearby Spartanburg, while the newest location in Fountain Inn, South Carolina, boasts a western saloon-meets-hipster haven vibe. Rodney Freidank is the corporate chef at Table 301 and manages operations at Papi’s Tacos while also helping Baralles fine-tune recipes. Freidank shares the secret sauce behind Papi’s Tacos, from its “Christopher Walk-in” cooler to Fritos tacos.
What’s it like to share a space with a craft beer concept?
It’s definitely a new concept for us, but we love it! Craft beer lovers are passionate; they come in to stay a while; they want to talk and be educated. We love the opportunity to be there when they get hungry after a beer or two. Tacos are the perfect complement for a brewpub—they’re light and uncomplicated. What’s better than a taco and a beer?
What makes the newest location in Fountain Inn special?
The Christopher Walk-in cooler is definitely a unique flourish that is included in both Growler Haus locations, but is more visible in the Fountain Inn venue. This location is one story, so the Papi’s Tacos “kitchen” is located right within the Growler Haus space and in front of our guests.
In the Fountain Inn location, we were able to create a space along the main bar since the space was new to both of us. This allows us to work as one team, serving both beer and tacos in a way that is different than the Spartanburg location.
What kind of feedback have you received from customers?
We get many comments on how fresh the food is and what a tremendous value it is. The recipes are actually authentic Mexican, thanks to “Papi.” Jorge Baralles’ original recipes are from his upbringing in Cuautla, Mexico. But that authenticity also doesn’t stop us from using more contemporary presentations. What else would you expect from a “stationary food truck”?
What’s your favorite menu item?
The most fun/intriguing menu item is the Travelin’ Taco. It’s all your favorite taco ingredients—shredded chicken, lettuce, queso fresco, pico de gallo, and sour cream—but it is served in a bag of Fritos with a fork.