It’s hard to imagine launching a new concept in the middle of a global pandemic, but Papi Jocho’s Street Dogs and Cantina is scheduled for a Cinco de Mayo launch on Tuesday in Covington, Ky.
The concept — created by the owners of the Agave & Rye Tequila and Bourbon hall — focuses on Mexican-inspired hot dogs, with an energetic, street-smart vibe. Agave & Rye, also in Covington, has tacos on the menu, and that led to Papi Jocho’s.
Founder Yavonne Sarber said the time is right for a fast-casual menu designed for delivery and carryout that fits a need — and creates a little fun — in the community.
“Now, more than ever, we know it can bring a little levity to the Covington community,” Sarber said. “We want to provide a dining experience unlike any other — whether guests are ordering delivery, carrying out or dining in, once that’s an option. The [current] preference for carryout and delivery was one of the major reasons we decided to open Papi Jocho’s now. We know Papi Jocho’s will be a much-needed piece of excitement amidst the current pandemic.”
Photo: The Original Papi Jocho’s all-beef dog is topped with grilled onions, housemade chili sauce, queso Oaxaca, ketchup, mustard, mayo, tomato, house pickles, cotija cheese and grilled jalapeno.
The menu is uncluttered, with eight different street dogs, sides and housemade cocktails and Mexican soft drinks. But the dogs themselves are very elaborately dressed, with toppings that evoke a lunch on the run on a Mexican side street. The No. 1 Original Papi Jocho’s dog, for $5, is an all-beef dog with grilled onions, housemade chili sauce, queso Oaxaca, ketchup, mustard, mayo, tomato, house pickles, cotija and a grilled jalapeno.
Variations on the original street dog are wrapped in bacon, topped with guac or pulled chicken, al pastor pork, marinated shrimp and more. There’s also a vegetarian option, the No. 8 Vegetariano Papi Jocho’s, for $6.50, with Beyond Italian sweet sausage and all the toppings. Papas fritas — salt and pepper French fries with cilantro and cotija — are served plain or with queso. A dessert fried tortilla dish, bunuelos, is tossed in cinnamon sugar and drizzled with tres leches caramel and Ibarra chocolate sauce.
The concept itself “lends itself to carryout and delivery and allows for it quite easily,” Sarber said. “Because so many restaurant diners are relying on both of those alternatives, we know it can bring something unexpected and exciting to the city’s current situation.”
The concept is partnering with DoorDash, Uber Eats, GrubHub and Postmates. Packaging is biodegradable and travels well, Sarber said, and “when the city deems it safe for Kentucky restaurants to re-open again, we’ll have seating available for 28 people at dining tables and 12 at the bar.”
Currently, Kentucky restaurants are closed for dine-in. The Kentucky Restaurant Association has submitted a plan to Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear to allow restaurant dining rooms to reopen and were awaiting a response at press time.
One element that would potentially be an issue for Papi Jocho’s — hiring staff — has worked out in the restaurant’s favor.
“Hiring staff would normally be our biggest concern during a time like this,” Sarber said. “However, we’ve been fortunate enough to have staff from our sister restaurant, Agave & Rye, that need and appreciate the opportunity to work right now, so we are cross-training them.”
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