Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic hitting in March, Victor Alvarez and Carlos Jimenez were both working as part-time DJs, in addition to Alvarez holding down a job at a law firm and Jimenez owning a construction company.
After their DJ gigs dried up and Alvarez was laid off by the law firm, they began to seriously talk about opening their first restaurant together. In April, Big Papi’s, a taco restaurant in the Industry Lane Business Park near Frederick, became a reality.
“Ninety-nine percent of the people thought me and my partner were crazy,” Alvarez said. “But I thought it was the perfect time to do something.”
Alvarez has worked in the restaurant industry for years. So throughout the pandemic, while he was largely bored at home, Alvarez experimented with different recipes and types of Mexican food. He’d tweak recipes after trying them and stayed on top of new social media food crazes.
“In the summertime, I bought a griddle at home, and then I just started cooking outside and perfecting my recipes, and then everything just was falling into place,” Alvarez said. “Everything that we’re serving here I personally cooked myself at home to make sure it’s top quality.”
Jimenez and Alvarez found a perfect spot on Industry Lane that still had restaurant equipment from its last tenant. That helped them get a head start, and they were able to open in mid-December.
After a few weeks open, Alvarez said the feedback from the community has been excellent. Many people think the restaurant is actually part of a chain, which pleases Alvarez. He wants to franchise Big Papi’s in the future.
“We actually are thinking about buying a food truck next month so we can start promoting it ... send it out to Virginia to start scouting different places where we think that next Papi’s will be,” Alvarez said.
His favorite item on the menu is the birria tacos, which are filled with braised beef that’s been slow cooked for five hours. It comes with a consomme for dipping, which Alvarez says he likes to eat like soup after he’s done with his tacos.
In addition to a variety of tacos, Big Papi’s also serves a “quesabirria,” which is a 12-inch quesadilla pizza with the same braised beef as the birria tacos. The beef also makes an appearance in a ramen dish. In the future, Alvarez also hopes to expand the menu once the staff have gotten a hold of all the original items.
The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner service 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. but will be expanding its hours to 8 p.m. on Jan. 4.
Big Papi’s is currently operating under takeout only, partly because of the pandemic but also because the restaurant needs an updated bathroom for dine-in service. Alvarez is fine with the way things are now and said the online ordering system has been working well.
“My employees are my No. 1 priority, keeping them safe,” he said.
Open for Business is an occasional feature highlighting new businesses around Frederick County. Contact Riley at firstname.lastname@example.org.