By Tara Duggan

Papalote is flying high, its fame extending beyond the original Valencia Street location, which opened in 1999. While the Mexican grill has always stood out for its fresh ingredients and grilled-to-order meats, now its creamy-yet-spicy salsa is sold in jars at many Whole Foods, and not long ago co-owners Miguel and Victor Escobedo vanquished Bobby Flay on his competitive food TV show, Throwdown with Bobby Flay. The Fulton Street location features the same menu as the original, including an extensive vegetarian selection that ranges from soyrizo tacos to grilled veggie fajitas, with eggplant, carrots and zucchini marinated in the house salsa. The Triple Threat Burrito, which beat out Flay’s burrito on TV, is on the other end of the protein spectrum, jammed with grilled prawns, steak and chicken. Chilaquiles and Mexican egg classics that can be either stuffed into a burrito or not, are worth a morning detour (or have your breakfast for dinner). Seating is a bit cramped, but the service is a step above most taquerias. Staff delivers chips and that famous roasted tomato salsa as you sit down, and the rest of your order arrives on colorful plates—a fitting cheerful accent for this top-flight Mexican grill.

sweet seats

Like the original, this location has red walls and large kites (papalotes in Spanish) hanging from the ceiling. Most of the seating is at a narrow bar on one side of the room. Nab one of the café tables in the light-filled front of the restaurant.

chew on this

For $50 you can buy an FTC skateboard with a picture of a Papalote burrito, partially unfurled from its foil wrapper (while supplies last). For something even tastier, if you aren’t near a Whole Foods, you can stock up on Papalote salsa, purchasing it online at Papalote Salsa Trading Company.


Mon–Sat 11 AM–10 PM; Sun 11 AM–9 PM

price range

$4.25 (quesadilla)–$19.95 (Triple Threat Burrito)