Most of the new Mexican restaurants of note that have opened lately aim for the higher end, importing the culinary experimentation of Mexico City or digging deep into Southern Mexico's indigenous cuisines. In other words, we aren't really adding more top-notch burrito joints to the pantheon.
Papito West in Hayes Valley might change that. The spinoff of Potrero Hill's Papito is a lunch-and-dinner spot best described by the helpful oxymoron “upscale casual.” By that I mean the $12-or-thereabouts menu options are familiar enough, but with little fancy twists here and there, such as crudo at the raw bar, the particularly flavorful rice in the burritos. Those burritos, along with the tacos, come with a wider range of options than the usual chorizo or carnitas, such as rock cod, fried chicken, and a rather spectacular duck confit.
A duck confit burrito is one of those things that will probably register with people either as a duh-I-can't-believe-I've-never-had-that-before or as proof that we truly live in a circa-1788 Versailles of dining. It's decadent, but also well-assembled, with all the key ingredients easily discerned by the palate but not so “zoned” that you risk a big bite of nothing but guac. It was a bit runny, and at $16 (including tax and tip), probably not everyone's everyday lunch go-to, but thoroughly filling and enjoyable.
Like recently opened Souvla barely one block up Hayes Street, it's a fresh, white-tiled and skylit space with an eye-catching graphic that takes up an entire wall. (In this case, it's a woman in Día de Los Muertos makeup, ringed with roses.) At lunch, the place is pure bustle, crammed with workers and patrons, yet the place doesn't break a sweat. Hayes Valley has long cried out for quality Mexican fare, and Papito West is pitched perfectly with its surroundings.