Papa Mo’s will also continue to be a family-run business – Susana Delgadillo will slowly begin integrating into the business after she recovers from recent eye surgery.
“I already have my nephew Eric Morales working as a driver for our new delivery service, and our desserts are provided by my sister’s business – Alicia’s Delicias,” Delgadillo said. “She makes rum cakes, tequila lime cakes, and pumpkin loafs. You can also order whole cakes through our website and pick them up at the restaurant.”
Delgadillo plans to have his children involved more in the business as well. “I have six children, and we are a proud military family. I was in the Navy, my oldest is in the Navy now, my next is in the Air Force, and I have another one at Oregon State University.” Delgadillo continued. “Soon I will have my younger children in here as well, cleaning tables and taking orders.”
Though the transition to owning a restaurant has been challenging, Papi Mo is very glad he made the decision. “I really love the people here. We always try to be very personable, and many people say they feel at home when they come in to eat.” Delgadillo said. “We would eventually love to expand to new locations, but we are taking baby steps. We don’t want to expand at the expense of quality service and the feel people have come to expect from the original Papa Mo’s.”
“We want that ‘Mel’s Diner’ vibe – we want this to be a place that maybe you don’t know names, but everyone talks to each other as if they know each other. You can’t fake that, it’s natural, and you can’t put a price tag on that experience.”
That experience is real. Delgadillo often interacts with customers as he takes their orders, sharing a few of his stories from the military and his time as a police officer. He takes the time to connect with his customers and makes them feel like family.
“The mother of one of my local customers wrote me recently from Connecticut to thank me for taking care of her son. She said her son talks all the time about Papa Mo’s and how he wants to bring her here when she comes to visit.”
Delgadillo feels there are many good things that have happened since he took over, that make all the hard work worthwhile. “I had a kid come that was short of money. He wanted to eat, but only had some change. I paid for his meal because he reminded me of my days as a child when I was struggling in 6th ward,” he recalled.
“He was very appreciative, and has come back several times since then to eat. That was a small gesture, but it is something he will probably remember his whole life. Some days are harder than working in a patrol car, but good things like that happening makes it all worthwhile.”
For Houston fans of Papa Mo himself, no worries. He still works regularly in the kitchen at the restaurant, and Delgadillo has assured him and his customers that he can continue to work as long as he wants. “Papa Mo has been incredible. He still cooks and helps out every day.” Delgadillo said.
“We have a great partnership, and I enjoy working with him to experiment on new dishes and daily specials. Papa Mo is a great chef, he learns very quickly and can reproduce the new things we develop or customers request without much effort.”
So what does the future hold for Papa Mo’s Deli? Papa Rico plans to run the business for many years to come with his wife before passing it on to his children and other family members. “I hope to one day serve my customer’s children’s children!” he said. “I want us to one day be nationwide, if not worldwide. I want to grow this original concept from Papa Mo and share it with the world.”
“I want you to be able to fly into Mexico and go to Papa Mo’s Deli and get the same treatment you would receive in the Heights. Not a corporate feel, but a comfort food feel, no matter where you are.”
As a Mexican-American, Delgadillo is a minority business owner, but he said that it never really crosses his mind. Houston still feels like home and has been very accepting to him and his businesses, even though he was gone for 17 years.
Delgadillo enjoys extending that feeling of home to all of his customers. Recently, he began advertising on a web service which identifies local business that are friendly and open to the LGBTQ community. “At Papa Mo’s everyone is welcome! This is a family restaurant, and we want you to always feel like you are at home.” Delgadillo explained.
Papa Mo’s Deli is located at 465 T.C. Jester Blvd in Houston, and is open Monday through Saturday. To learn more about Papa Mo’s Deli or to place a takeout or delivery order, visit www.papamosdeli.com or call (713) 862-PAPA (7272).