Mexican street food and karaoke – the two go together like tequila and lime. At least it seems a winning combination at Greenpoint joint Papacito’s. An accidental restaurant, the eatery began as something of an (illegal) alley party in a backyard space off Manhattan Avenue. The made from scratch fare and festive atmosphere quickly became a popular destination in the neighborhood and soon enough, a full-blown taqueria was born. There’s now a lot more elbow room but the great music and simple approach to comida still stands. And vegetarians take note – there are plenty of spicy protein offerings to fill your burrito.
Nona’s Jacque Lynn Schiller caught up with the energetic Colin Schiller (no relation that we could determine) about Papacito’s humble beginnings, what’s great about Greenpoint and of course, karaoke.
Jacque: Where are you from and what’s your background in food?
Colin: I was born in Brooklyn and although I’ve worked in bars, this is my first restaurant gig.
What brought you to the neighborhood, specifically to this backyard spot?
Monday night Karaoke at Enid’s in April of 2001 brought me back to Brooklyn from Long Island. I loved the energy of the people and the uniqueness of the area.
Tell us a bit about Papacito’s development – from two picnic tables to a tropical oasis. Also, who painted the murals?
A lot of hard work, luck and tacos sold! The artist who painted the mural is Dennis Bauser.
Why Mexican street food? Who developed food menu?
Our other partner, Cody Utzman, grew up on the West Coast and always loved the style and spirit of Mexican food. And as a member of the community for a decade, I believed in the concept and saw a need for it in the neighborhood. All of the food is made fresh right here in Brooklyn.
Who develops the cocktail list?
Best thing to eat for beating the winter blues?
A bowl of chicken pazole w/ chorizo and hominy.
And first sip of spring?
Our brand new Jamaica Iced Tea (or Hard Jamaica Cocktail).
You guys are known for brunch AND late night eats. Best of both worlds! Is there a particular place or experience that inspired keeping it going all these hours?
Talk about some of the events held here.
Thursday and Saturday nights are Kings of Karaoke. I was known as “Colin The King of Karaoke” all over town. New York Magazine voted me best host and I was also mentioned in Rolling Stone and Men’s Health for my antics. I still have a strong tie to that scene, so it made perfect sense to have karaoke be our first night time events. We are gonna try out a speed dating / dance party event once a month on Fridays and see how that works. We also like to have live rock shows in backyard, often featuring our employees. Or me! (Colin Schiller and The Reactions).
Papacito’s seems to have that magic mix of conviviality and tasty food. To what do you attribute that? It can’t just be the tequila!
Right place at the right time and just loving the whole thing.
What do you appreciate most about the neighborhood?
The diversity and camaraderie. And our neighbors “The Thing”. You never know what you’re going to find there.
How would you describe your food philosophy in general?
Live it, love it, eat it!!
What can we expect in the upcoming months?
Some raging good times on the patio plus new food and drink specials weekly. And as always, something for the vegans.
Grab some tacos and belt out a tune at Papacito’s Greenpoint location (look for the giant Día de los Muertos skull on the awning) 999 Manhattan Avenue.