Papalo Brings Sonoran-Style Mexican Barbecue To San Diego's La Mesa Village

November 7, 2023

Chef Drew Bent's Papalo restaurant is now open, bringing the flavors of Sonoran-style Mexican barbecue to La Mesa Village.

Chef Andrew 'Drew' Bent is a graduate of the Art Institute of California that has worked locally in the kitchens at Searsucker, Carnitas' Snack Shack, Puesto, Tender Greens, Tiger!Tiger!, and in 2017 even apprenticed in the kitchen for frequent "Best Restaurant In The World" winner Noma’s month-long Tulum, Mexico pop-up. Bent also worked at Enrique Olvero's highly-reviewed Criollo restaurant in Oaxaca for a short period.

Chef Drew Bent was the founding chef behind San Diego's Michelin-recognized Lola 55 modern taqueria. During Chef Drew's tenure at LOLA 55, the restaurant earned the highly coveted Bib Gourmand distinction from California’s Michelin Guide. Chef Drew also came out victorious on an episode of Food Network's Beat Bobby Flay in spring 2021.

Chef Bent departed Lola 55 last year to launch Papalo sister concept Papalito inside the now-defunct Little Thief wine bar in North Park. Bent then moved his Sonoran barbecue concept into ModBom bar and restaurant adjacent to Fault Line Park at the corner of 14th and Island but left in September to launch his own standalone restaurant.

Chef Bent has now reopened Papalo in the over 2,250 square-foot space previously occupied by Boss Bird Kitchen in the heart of downtown La Mesa. The menu of slow-smoked, Sonoran barbecue meats come in both sandwich and platter form, along with a distinctive selection of specialty dishes and rotating menu items. Highlights include the Mole BBQ chicken, Mexican saffron fried rice, ground brisket smoked cheeseburger, and beef short rib. The restaurant also features a full bar offering craft cocktails, local beer, agua fresca and Mexican sodas.

Papalo is now open at 8323 La Mesa Boulevard in La Mesa Village. For more information, visit