Papi Grande's opens to replace The U

Mexican cuisine part of new food trend


For the four years it was open, The U was one of more popular clubs for UB students.

Its proximity to North Campus and students’ ability to catch a ride directly on the Stampede bus made it an appealing place for students to go out for the night. The club was popular enough that some students were confused when The U closed its doors during the summer and remained closed for renovations last semester.

The U officially reopened as Papi Grande’s Mexican Restaurant and Cantina, an authentic Mexican restaurant complete with a bar that has 16 beers on tap, a private party room with a TV and booths or tables for the casual diner, on Jan. 5.

Unlike The U, which was only open to those 18 and older, Papi Grande’s is open to customers of all ages. Its authentic Mexican menu items range from spicy soups to salads and the restaurant’s most popular item: the chimichanga.

Despite some students’ confusion and disappointment about The U closing, Jimmy Spano, owner of the property, believes that closing the club was a good move.

Spano said his decision to turn The U into an authentic Mexican restaurant wasn’t the result of bad business – he said the club was doing well right up until it.

But he did admit his decision didn’t come solely from his desire to open a restaurant.

“The decision to close The U was partially AMC-driven,” Spano said.

AMC is the cinema complex next door. About a year ago, the management from AMC Theatres informed him that the theater would be undergoing some serious renovations and those changes were drastic and expensive, Spano said.

According to Spano, the renovations to the theater totaled more than $5 million.

Since AMC’s renovations would soon draw more traffic to the area, Spano decided to close The U’s doors and chase his dream of opening a family restaurant.

In order bring in students to the new restaurant, which is located on Maple Road, Papi Grannde’s is offering a discount to UB students and faculty during the month of February.

Students and staff can get 15 percent off of their food bill by presenting their UB ID card. Although the 15 percent off doesn’t apply to drinks, the bar portion of the restaurant will offer $3.99 margaritas for the entirety of February as well.

The restaurant offers daily specials too, which include $2 Taco Tuesdays and half-priced appetizers on Sundays.

Because Papi Grande’s has only been open for a month, some students are unaware that it even existed, let alone offers specials for them as students.

“I’ve never been there and didn’t know the restaurant was even there,” said Peter Sanders, a freshman mechanical engineering major.

But Kristina Felber, who graduated from UB last spring with a degree in communication, has been to the restaurant with her family three times already and has enjoyed it.

“I really like the food. I think it’s super good,” Felber said.

Although Felber likes Papi Grande’s food, she was not supportive of all aspects of the restaurant.

“I think they need to work on the music,” Felber said. “I mean, you’re going to a Mexican restaurant and so like obviously they want to have Spanish music on, but it gets kind of annoying. They haven’t found the right mix yet.”

John Jacobs is the assistant features editor and can be reached at