A popular restaurant that started out as a food truck five years ago already is making quite a splash in Ocala.
Coming off a successful soft opening, the new Papa Pineapples hosted a grand opening gala this past Friday night that saw large crowds coming in to sample a different kind of menu that offers a variety of freshly made Hawaiian taco dishes, burritos and popular rice bowls.
Owner Scott Snyder, of Summerfield, said he and his wife, Natalie, decided to open the new restaurant in Ocala following the establishment of a highly successful location in Leesburg and the popularity of their food trailer, which still makes appearances at events ranging from Orlando to Gainesville to Winter Garden and beyond. The new eatery is located at 3323 SE Maricamp Rd. in the Maricamp Square Plaza in the space that was formerly occupied by Cup O’ The Irish.
“I’m excited about it,” said Snyder. “I saw that this place was for sale on Ocala-News.com and I jumped on it.”
Snyder said he originally planned to do more with his food trailer in Ocala and wasn’t really counting on opening a restaurant location until the summer of 2020. But his Leesburg eatery quickly became a success and plans changed.
“I thought it was going to take longer to get Leesburg going but everybody was happy with it,” he said of the restaurant at 314 W Main Street in the heart of the city’s downtown district. “It’s still going strong.”
As for the new Ocala restaurant, Snyder said he’s looking for it to be a huge success.
“It’s in the middle of so many schools and this area is really good,” he said.
Snyder said he made the decision to get into the food business in 2014 after his sales manager position was eliminated at MVP Athletic Club in The Villages. He said a friend came up with the name Papa Pineapples because it pays homage to Snyder’s five years of military service in Hawaii and the culture there that he quickly came to love.
“I bought a food truck that was on the side of the road and then two years after that I got a food trailer,” said Snyder, who along with his wife was deployed to Iraq when both served in the Army Reserve unit in Ocala. “Two years after that we opened up in Leesburg and now, we’re here.”
Snyder said he knew when he started the new venture that he had to offer something much different than that of his competitors, hence the tropical twist on tacos and other dishes.
“I didn’t want to do like a burger or barbecue truck because everybody had them,” he said. “So, I decided to do Papa Pineapples.”
Snyder said Friday night’s busy grand opening event featured entertainment by Rob Burgess and saw many customers enjoying tacos that featured everything from pineapple cilantro pork to Hawaiian barbecue chicken to chili lime chicken to black bean mango. Snyder and company also quickly discovered that customers thoroughly enjoyed the “Papasada” steak taco, which includes a Carne Asada marinade with Pico de Gallo and sour cream on top.
Judging by the responses on Facebook from customers who visited the new Papa Pineapples, the future looks bright.
Amanda Rocki called her server “sweet hearted” and said the food was great.
“We will definitely come back again for sure,” she wrote.
Kathy Brennan said she and her co-workers enjoy being able to order lunch from the new Ocala location.
“Their portions were huge and the price was great,” she said. “It was amazing! You will not be disappointed!”
Tresa Coley agreed.
“The food is delicious, the atmosphere is great and the workers are so sweet,” she wrote. “It is definitely a place you should try out!”