After James Windon’s career as a serial entrepreneur in the entertainment industry, he started a cleaning business.
Then the epidemic hit. And this is where the creativity started to flow.
Windon and his wife, Joanna, created Buena Papa Fry Bar in Raleigh, N.C., in 2021, based the concept around a dish Windon invented during the pandemic: loaded french fries.
While cooking for his family during the COVID-19 lockdown, Windon learned how to make homemade French fries. One day, while preparing Bandeja Paisa (a traditional Colombian dish with rice, beans, and lots of toppings), Joanna ran out of rice to cook as a base, so Windon served up fresh home made potatoes.
It may have seemed crazy at first, but they were desperate at the time.
“We had hungry kids watching us. As parents, we wanted it to work,” Windon said.
Entrepreneurs closed down their cleaning businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Windon was ready for the next opportunity.
My business spirit started spinning. I thought, “Wait a minute. You might have a job here.” »»
Buena Papa is like Chipotle of fries, Windon said, but “don’t just think of bacon strips, because that’s not all. Instead, they’re dishes from around the world, with French fries as the base.”
Once Windon had the idea for Buena Papa, he turned to the Internet and began searching for the most popular dish in each country.
Starting with the classic Bandeja Paisa-based signature dish is El Colombiano (the Colombian): sautéed with re-cooked Colombian beans and topped with chicharron (fried pork belly), chorizo (Colombian sausage) and finished with guacamole and pico de gallo. Up North, Carolina: French fries tossed in a vinaigrette dressing, topped with pulled pork and coleslaw and topped with our signature BBQ sauce. And across the pond, El Griego (the Greek): French fries mixed with Greek spices, topped with grilled chicken, tzatziki sauce and finished with pico de gallo.
This diversity in the menu is one of the ways Buena Papa stands out from its competition.
You can introduce a new culture, a new language, and new foods [to customers]Windon said. “When you walk into one of our locations, it will feel like you are on vacation. Like the time you went to Cancun or the time you went to Puerto Rico.”
Some of the menu items are in Spanish, which Windon says customers appreciate, but is also helpful in teaching them a new language.
There are three restaurants open in Buena Papa, with a fourth and fifth on the way. They started in a food court — the Morgan Street food hall in Raleigh — because that’s where someone finally caught on to the concept, according to Windon.
When they went to attend the dining hall, the person in the lobby asked, “How many years have you worked in the restaurant?”
Windon replied, “Zero. But I will understand this thing.”
The fourth Buena Papa will be in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood. They’re just “drying the ink” on the first franchise agreement, too.
“What interests us most is being able to introduce this simple concept to other people like us all over the United States,” Windon said, noting that these people do not have restaurant experience, but they do have hands-on experience.