Hidden away within the labyrinth of strip malls at Decatur and Sahara in the site of a onetime Baja Fresh dwells the unassuming Playa Papagayos. A SoCal import, Papagayos specializes in the cuisine of chef/owner Alberto Ocampo’s home state of Guerrero on the western coast of Mexico. Ranging from beachfronts overlooking the Pacific to mountainous regions, Guerrero’s diversity is reflected deliciously on Papagayos’ menu.
From the sea, a variety of ceviche-laden tostadas are offered; the pulpo ($7) particularly impresses, avoiding the characteristic chewiness often found in octopus dishes. Orden de pescaditos ($9), modestly described by our delightful server as “fish sticks,” are so much better than the Gorton’s version. Lightly fried in beer batter and served with a duo of salsas—the roja is particularly potent—they’re a treat. The same fish is used for the pescado super taco ($3.50), where it’s generously garnished with cabbage and a dollop of crema.
Landward, Papagayos delivers an outstanding rendition of chilaquiles verde con asada ($12). A swath of the menu is dedicated to huaraches—ovals of fried masa topped with smashed pintos, cheese and your choice of meats. The pambazo ($9) makes for a unique sandwich option, a glorious mess mixing chorizo and fried potatoes with queso blanco and crema inside a fried, sauce-dipped red guajillo pepper.
And then there’s the Cubana Mexicana ($11). The pambazo might be more of a destination dish, you have to see the Cubana to truly believe it. It’s a beast of a dish, layering a quintet of meats—pork, ham, hot dog (affectionately referred to as wiener on the menu), breaded steak and Mexican sausage, with cheese for good measure—inside a flaky torta roll. It’s the stuff dreams are made of.
Playa Papagayos 4760 W. Sahara Ave. #21, 702-822-6691. Daily, 9 a.m.-9 p.m.