OLD LYME — A ribbon-cutting to celebrate the official opening of Papi’s Taqueria was held Saturday morning, March 25. The new takeout Mexican restaurant was long awaited by local diners, who were happy to see its “Coming Soon” sign replaced by a “Now Open” sign in January.
Kate Lanfair and Adrian “Papi” Vidals, pictured below, are the owners and talent behind the newest addition to Old Lyme’s food offerings. Lanfair has been an owner of Westbrook Pizza since 2001 and sole owner since 2007. Nine years ago, Papi came in hoping to be hired, and the rest is history.
“Papi joined Westbrook Pizza and was so talented with pastas, baking, and pizza of course,” said Lanfair, “but in addition he would make Mexican food for the staff meals, dishes his mother taught him in Puebla, Mexico, and we were just blown away.”
Along the way, Lanfair and Vidals began dating. “We would go out on Tuesday and Thursday nights to the [Long Wharf] food trucks in New Haven or over to Groton for authentic Mexican food.” Lanfair said, “I kept asking, why aren’t we selling your Mexican food?”
Now a family with two young children, who are six and two years old, Lanfair and Vidals committed in September 2021 to opening a taqueria in Old Lyme, renting space in the Old Lyme Shopping Center. Lanfair explained, “We felt it was an unserved market and it was still close enough to our home in Westbrook.”
But September 2021 still had halting supply chain issues due to the pandemic, which greatly altered the opening plans of the taqueria.
“The Town of Old Lyme was great, our delays were all related to the pandemic,” Lanfair said. “We had a nine-month delay for the fabrication of an oven hood system we needed, which had to have a special grade of stainless steel.” And as the hood was in transit to Old Lyme the truck broke down on the side of a road.
She commented with a quiet chuckle, “You can’t make this stuff up, we would get over one hurdle, and then we’d face another, like our work crew all getting COVID and then construction coming to a halt for three weeks.”
But they kept their eye on the goal and continued to move closer to opening.
Three months before opening day, Papi’s mother “Abuela” Maria, arrived from Puebla to help with the business by way of a 10-year visa. The kitchen staff is made up of other family and friends. Opening day finally came January 17, 2023, 19 months after first leasing the property.
The OL EDC hosted Saturday’s ribbon cutting ceremony. The event began with EDC Chairwoman Cheryl Poirier thanking Lanfair and Vidals for their patience and also, their investment in Old Lyme. She said, “Our small, family-owned businesses are part of the fabric of Old Lyme.”
Old Lyme First Selectman Tim Griswold then welcomed the new owners. State Representative Devin Carney (R-23rd) spoke next, reading aloud a General Assembly Official Citation introduced by State Rep. Carney and State Senator Martha Marx, which offered the General Assembly’s sincerest congratulations and wished the business many years of prosperity.
Lanfair then thanked everyone for the warm welcome they had received to Old Lyme and shared they have been very happy with the response from the community. “Everyone has been so nice,” she said. “Everyone is so appreciative, so curious, and friendly. The kids that come in on their own are always well-mannered, which has really been wonderful.”
The couple is looking forward to their first summer serving the Old Lyme community and its visitors.
Papi’s daily specials are on their Facebook page and will soon be on their newly-launched website.They have added Shoreline Menus delivery service and will continue to add special features such as “Tamale Thursdays,” when their homemade tamales will take center stage.
Although their first few weeks were a cash-only operation, they now accept cards although they offer a discount to those paying with cash.
Editor’s Note: Papi’s Taqueria is located at 19 Halls Road in Old Lyme. Hours are Monday through Saturday 11am-8pm and Sundays 3pm-8pm. To phone in an order, contact them at 860-434-8226 (TACO).