By Marco Leon | Staff Writer
Hawaiʻi is not known for Mexican food, but in recent years, Mexican food has become more accessible with food trucks, restaurants and delivery services. The availability makes it an overwhelming task to choose. Having been born in Oaxaca, Mexico, I find myself in a position to try out all up and coming Mexican food establishments. This is a list of my favorite Mexican food places on Oʻahu.
Serg’s Mexican Kitchen | 2740 E. Mānoa Rd. | Honolulu
What it lacks in customer service, it makes up with flavor and consistently satisfies any craving. The best deal is the carne asada plate, served with rice, beans and nopales (cactus) salad making the $15.95 price worth it. Make sure to ask for your tortillas well done.
Azteca Mexican Restaurant | 3617 Wai‘alae Ave. | Honolulu
Azteca is like going to your favorite tía’s (aunts) house because you know you’ll have a great time and be fed with excellent food. The large mole enchilada plate will cost $16.50, the small will come with one enchilada for $12.50, but if you can make it for a lunch special, the small will be $9.50 until 3 p.m. Get the horchata along with it for $2.50 a serving.
El Charro Mexicano Restaurant | 99-115 ‘Aiea Heights Dr. | ʻAiea
El Charro Mexicano was opened in 2010 by Doña Sofia, who is of Peruvian ethnicity, and opened shop after she fell in love with the flavors of Mexico. This is my favorite restaurant to go to for date night; the combination plate is $19.50 and perfect for sharing. Choices include any of the three items: enchiladas, chile relleno, tamale, burrito, taco, or chalupa. The meat options are beef, chicken, pork. A great combo plate would be a burrito, chile relleno and the flauta all with chicken. Don’t forget to ask for its signature habanero salsa.
Tío’s Tamales | 1329 Nuʻuanu Ave. | Honolulu
Finally! A place where tamales are available any day of the week and not just as a special-order item for the weekend. As the name implies, the tamales are the item to get. There are two buying options: ala carte tamales start at $2.50 each, and a dozen that costs $28. The plates come with rice and beans and are smothered with chile verde (contains pork) or the red chile (vegetarian friendly), and start at $10.50 for one tamale and $15.50 for three tamales. The best meal deal is two tamales for $12.50. You’ll leave full and happy.
Surf N Salsa | 66521 Kamehameha Hwy. | Haleʻiwa
The go-to Mexican food destination is Surf N Salsa. Imagine an abuela (grandmother) in the kitchen making a feast that will feed the entire village. That’s what it is like to go here. The staff treats you like family and ensures that the food is nothing less than perfect. Everything on the menu is excellent! For starters, plan to make a trip for Taco Tuesday between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. to get tacos al pastor for $1.25 each. A must have is the horchata. It’s expensive at $4 for a 20-ounce cup but holds true to what an horchata is. The rice flavor is prominent not muted by the addition of milk, which adds just the right sweetness, and the Mexican cinnamon sticks add a nice subtle flavor. There is also a vegan-friendly version made with coconut milk. The entree of choice is sopes. Choices include two sopes topped with chicken, carnitas (pork) or grass-fed carne asada. The plate includes a side of rice, beans, salad and guacamole all for $14.50. Take the time to relax and stay to eat there; not only will you have a great area to enjoy the food, but you will also get free chips and a great spicy salsa (excludes Taco Tuesday).