Melissa Gonzalez' eyes light up at the mention of comfort food.

It's the main ingredient in the dream that became Papi's Eatery & Lounge, an 8th St. E. restobar opened by Melissa and husband Jonathan in Owen Sound's River District this past June.

"We didn't want to be 'fine dining'," she said. "We're quality comfort food."

PapisEatery 02
Jonathan and Melissa Gonzalez in front of their River District restobar
on Owen Sound's 8th St. E.


Papi's sidewalk
sign shows a
touch, as well
as the eatery's
Wednesday to
Friday hours.
PapisEatery 04

"We really just needed to be proud of what we present," Jonathan added, "to create something we believe in."

The Gonzalez both made careers in the hospitality industry, and have worked in chain restaurants on the east-side commercial strip since coming to Owen Sound almost 9 years ago.

But as their family grew, with two daughters and a third child on the way, they started dreaming of something more ... more personal, more honest.

"We wanted to be hosts of our own place, an honest family restaurant. We want to build something."

It was only after committing to their location in the River District in January 2022 that the dream became reality. The name was the easiest, Papi is Jonathan's nickname from his initiation into the back-of-house world of restaurant kitchens.

Papis 03 hub
Papi's bar with its signature safe

The hard part was preparing the space, a traditional European layout of large front windows flanking the entry vestibule, opening into the dark-walled airy front and some intimate corners. The focal point is Papi's bar with its deep bartop giving plenty of room for food and drinks and conversation.

They credit their contractors, some family helpers, and a good deal of luck sourcing materials, for the renovation's success. The last piece to arrive was the stone-fired pizza oven, shipped from Italy and installed only shortly before opening day. It plays a large part in the kitchen, freshly made classic pizzas are featured on both lunch and dinner menus.

Another key ingredient is staffing, an experienced professional chef helped develop the menu, which is changed up often as season and inspiration intervene. There's also a dedicated baker so the desserts, the breads and the pizza dough are freshly made on the premises. Sauces and soups are also made in-house, said Melissa.


PapisEatery 03
Lightly-battered freshly-made cauliflower bites, a popular Papi's appetizer


Local sourcing is key to the Gonzalez, from the ground beef in the hamburgers, various ingredients from the Owen Sound Farmers Market as well as local farmers and growers, and even the 8 varieties of regional beer on draught behind Papi's bar.

The bar is where Papi feels at home. He says his familiarity with kitchen work made him initially reluctant to move to the front of the house, but connecting with customers eased his way.

He sees their customers as part of the larger community, and it's that sense of community that drew the couple downtown to the River District.

"It's where we wanted to be, we didn't want to be anywhere else," said Jonathan. "Community's big with us."

"We want to give back," added Melissa.

PapisEatery 05 Papi's Eatery
& Lounge
in Owen Sound's
River District


Papi's Eatery & Lounge, 215 8th. St. E., Owen Sound, is open Wednesday - Friday 11:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. and 5:00 pm. - 10:00 p.m., Saturday 4:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m., Sunday 12:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m., closed Monday and Tuesday.

by Staff
David Galway








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