Take a culinary adventure around Latin America at Coolangatta’s Big Papi’s Cocina

We come across a lot of restaurants in this line of work and each one has a unique story to tell. Every now and then, a place pops up that stops us in our tracks. It’s an intangible feeling that says ‘this one is different’. Big Papi’s Cocina in Coolangatta is that place. Dedicated to contemporary Latin American street food, the venue promises to excite your senses with punchy flavours, interesting sips and one big personality …
Jun 06, 2024, updated Jun 06, 2024

Springing to life on Griffith Street, the venue has transformed the former Holy Jala and, for those who have been here a while, the original Greenhouse Canteen and Bar, into a melting pot of flavours and influences from Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Colombia, Puerto Rico and Chile, to name just a few.

The venue is the latest offering from hatted chef Kevin Fredes (who previously co-owned the award-winning Paella Y Pa’Mi in Coorparoo), alongside Carrie Edgar and Corrine Klein. While Paella Y Pa’Mi was dedicated exclusively to Spanish-style eats, Big Papi’s Cocina is an expression of Kevin’s life growing up in the Latin community, and aims to guide diners outside of their culinary comfort zone in the best and most delicious way possible.

“This [Big Papi’s Cocina] is definitely an expression of myself,” Kevin says looking around the star-lit dining room. “This is the food I grew up with … it’s not avant-garde or deconstructed whatever – it’s street food, elevated.”

When it comes to the menu, Kevin says he wants that home-style feeling, like you’ve stumbled upon a taco truck or you’re in search of a hot dog at 4:00 am in Santiago. To achieve the authentic aromas and smoky flavours, the kitchen is equipped with a custom-made Hibachi grill.

The menu is broken into four sections – compartir, which is where you will find a selection of smaller share plates, empanadas, platos grandes (larger plates) and postres (dessert). While there might be a few unfamiliar terms peppered around the menu, the flavours underpinning each of the dishes are familiar, just amplified. The vegan tartar with sun-dried tomatoes, olives, mustard sauce and a reduced glaze is a flavour bomb for the senses, while Papi’s provoleta (provolone cheese served in a cast-iron skillet) is the culinary version of a hug.

The grilled baby cos, while easy to skip over, is a perfect side with crunch – a touch of tartness from the vinegar is balanced with the creaminess from the cheese. If you only order one thing from the menu (a crazy idea, but okay), let it be this – the completito, which is their take on a two-bite hotdog. Just trust us on this.

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The larger plates include a Spanish omelette, coal-cooked octopus, chicken thighs bathed in a smoky red sauce and the stand-out picanha – a marbled rump cap served with farofa to sprinkle and punchy chimichurri to dunk. Before you succumb to the food coma, be sure to stick a fork into the banana rellena, which is topped with dulce de leche and flambeed meringue.

When it comes to the drinks, expect some equally as exciting Latin-based sips curated by Leonardo Gomes and Nikolas Vogel. “The cocktail list is fun and approachable,” says Kevin. There’s a selection of five signature cocktails ranging from a paloma to a couple of sours and, we’re told, the cheapest wine by the litre, alongside drops from some lesser known Latin American wine regions.

With only 55 seats scattered across the alfresco deck and internal dining room, what Big Papi’s lacks in size it more than makes up for in personality. Old-school hip-hop beats set the scene for a fun and spirited dining experience, which is precisely what you can expect when you pull up a stool.

Big Papi’s Cocina is now open! Head to our Stumble Guide for opening times.


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