Mofongo at Moe's | Restaurant Reviews | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Mofongo at Moe's 

Papito Moe's celebrates Puerto Rican comfort food.

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ALEX SPRINGER
  • Alex Springer

Throughout my endeavors to expand my culinary horizons within the boundaries of the Wasatch Front, I've learned a lot about myself. For example, I have yet to meet a dish where tripe is an improvement, and I think the presence of flattened bread like naan or tortillas with a meal increases my enjoyment by a solid 20 percent.

More recently, however, I'm starting to see plantains as my starchy side dish of choice. They've got a nice texture once they've been cooked, and their sugar content facilitates a truly lovely caramelization that other starches just don't have. They can switch gears from savory to sweet on a dime, and they go well with just about everything. This fledgling love for plantains is what drew me to Papito Moe's Puerto Rican Grub (1280 S. 300 West, 801-466-3190, papitomoes.com).

Plantains are an integral part of Puerto Rican cooking, in traditional dishes like mofongo, a tasty heap of mashed fried plantains blended with garlic and chicken broth that leaves mashed potatoes in the dust. Papito Moe's, which started as a local food truck before taking over the space previously owned by Mo's Café—no relation—earlier this year, has built a solid reputation for Puerto Rican favorites like mofongo, and they're not messing around.

Papito Moe's offers all kinds of mofongo, from the traditional ($7.99) to pernil mofongo ($11.50) with roast pork, to the holy union of trifongo ($12.50), which is a mix of green plantains, ripe plantains and yuca that comes with a protein of your choice. Obviously, the trifongo is ideal for an extreme plantain lover, because it shows off the plantain's versatility as an ingredient, and the depth of flavor that comes from these tasty tubers simply by serving them ripened or unripe. I'm also a fan of the Boricua chicken mofongo ($11.50) because their tender, marinated roast chicken is a nice complement to the accompanying chicken broth—which is a stroke of genius. Like all starches, mofongo can get a tad dry, so dumping that warm, flavorful chicken broth all over the place helps balance out the texture.

Though I came for the mofongo, I quickly became enamored with the love that Papito Moe's gives to their roast pork, chicken and beef. They may look a bit dressed-down when they arrive with only sautéed onions as an accessory, but it just takes one bite to understand the flavorful journey they've been on. I was especially impressed by the chicken, since it tends to get forgotten when roast pork and shredded beef are also on the menu. This stuff is tender, juicy and marinated in a pitch perfect blend of spices.

Papito Moe's also offers a series of Grub Bowls that put their trademark Puerto Rican spin on the fast-casual rice bowl. They're available with sautéed veggies, roast pork, grilled shrimp, Boricua chicken or an empanadilla, which is the regional version of an empanada. In addition to the heap of protein or veggies, Grub Bowls come with arroz con gandules, a signature Puerto Rican rice dish made with sofrito and pigeon peas and a few roasted plantains. The Boricua chicken ($9) is hard to pass up, but the pernil roast pork ($9) brings an equal amount of sweet and smoky flavor to the party. If the plantain-centric mofongo doesn't sound up your alley, then you'll want to give these Grub Bowls a whirl.

While the Puerto Rican entrees are flavorful, filling and fun to eat, a visit to Papito Moe's wouldn't be complete without trying some of the street-food-inspired sides and appetizers on the menu. I immediately gravitated toward the bacalaito ($3.60), a flattened fritter made with shredded cod. While it leans heavily on the familiar flavors that make deep-fried fish so tasty, it is a bit of a salt bomb—so make sure you order plenty of Kola Champagne to quench your post-bacalaito thirst. The solo empanadillas ($3.60-$4.80) are also a must if you're after something quick and tasty. These Puerto Rican takes on the classic Central American empanada are fried to perfection and filled with cheese or one of Papito Moe's excellently prepared proteins; the beef and cheese is a classic.

Digging deeper into the menu, I discovered the Puerto Rican sandwich known as tripleta ($9) and instantly knew that Papito Moe's and I were destined to be best friends. The tripleta is a torpedo of a sandwich that showcases the restaurant's pork, chicken and steak—the blessed trinity of roasted meats. Its toasted hoagie bun is also stuffed with Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato and mustard, making for the ultimate dinner entrée of a sandwich. The triple threat of meat is tender and juicy, meaning you don't take one bite and eviscerate the whole thing by yanking on a tough piece of meat. I hate when that happens.

Though this was only my first experience with Puerto Rican cuisine, I have to say I'm a fan. Versatile plantain dishes, excellently prepared and roasted meats, flavor-packed street food and overstuffed sandwiches are among my favorite things on the planet, and they're all under one roof at Papito Moe's.

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