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Sep 20, 2011 02:27 AM

best mexican food on oahu

after living in vegas and nyc, i have come to sad conclusion that the mexican food here is severely lacking. a native mexican i met also bemoaned the dearth of good comida on island.

i used to enjoy azteca, but their prices are now ridiculously inflated.

i didn't like jose's much.

i wasn't impressed by mexico on school street and they are expensive.

quinteros closed, but they weren't that good at all anyway.

el burrito on piikoi is ok.

el mariachi in kaneohe is alright.

toritos in market city is really pricy and i was really disappointed.

i have yet to try the restaurant in manoa marketplace which had a good writeup in the paper awhile back. they're supposed to have authentic dishes in addition to the usual. they also have a sister store on the windward side.

any suggestions?

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  1. El Charitto near Aiea Bowl had a good red chicken mole the first week they were open, but the next meal we had was meh, as was the food at the rest. across Moana Lua South of the Bowl and at Tacos Ricos. I have had a good fish taco at Luibueno, and some say other dishes there are good, though expensive. Good,cheap, simple tacos are available at Diego's #2 in Pearl City (and maybe #1 too, but I haven't been there). Thats all I can add to what you already know.

    1. I can tell you one place where it certainly isn't. On a recent trip I had the fish tacos at 24/7 at the Hilton Waikiki. They were not like any fish taco I had before and not in a good way. If it hadn't been 10 at night and I was just off a mainland flight I would have sent them back. They werre served rolled like a buritto and with an extremely heavy sauce. I have had reasonable food there before but not this time and the waiter recommended them to boot.

      1. There is an older thread, initiated by Eat Nopal, when he first moved to Hawai`i. There were some recs. in it (long thread), that might, or might not help you.

        Having lived near, or in the US Southwest, I have had various versions of Mexican fare, and from many different states. Those dishes have varied by the location of origin, and though I have traveled fairly extensively in Mexico, have to admit that I am mostly a fan of good, rich Tex-Mex. Now, I live in Phoenix (more Sonoran and Bajan), but we do have some good Jalisco restaurants, and they do more for me, than the majority.

        All of that said, I have to admit that Mexican fare is seldom on my list of "must-dos," when in Hawai`i. The best that I have found, has been Luibueno's in Haleiwa, on the North Shore. More Bajan, than my favored Tex-Mex, BUT well-done and flavorful. For us, it was Mexico meets Hawai`i, and we enjoyed it very much.

        Track down Eat Nopal's thread, and read. He also went into some detail on what he was looking for, and how he graded things. Remember, Mexico is a large country, with many, many different cuisines, from Incan to the fare of two coasts, to the Texas, New Mexican, Arizona and California borders. They all differ, and differ greatly. Heck, each state has their own mole. Double-heck, each family, in each state, has their own mole!



        1. Pretty much agree with Hunt on his major points. 1) Oahu is not a good place to find good Mexican food 2) There is a wide range of things people identify as Mexican. Growing up in northern California are the 'authentic roots' of what taco bell passes off as Mexican. What you find currently in authentic places in Los Angeles are very different, as is most Tex-Mex I have had. 3) Eat Nopal's thread is still good, although some places are gone, and others (Mexico and Torritos in particular) have really gone downhill since then.

          Considering the popularity of the old Compadres in Ward Center I am convinced that people in Hawaii either don't know what 'real' mexican food is, or don't like it. Putting guacamole and sour cream on a burger does not make it a taco.

          Azteca remains my favorite, but its not cheap. Rico's is preposterously inconsistent, ranging from really really good to OMG awful. Mexico tastes more and more like the food came out of the deep freeze, and Jose's is just plain bad - unless you want to have chips, salsa, and Margaritas.... they do a good job on those. El Burrito on Piikoi used to be really good, but I had a string of bad experiences there a decade ago (like the time I could taste the can in the enchilada sauce) and haven't been back since.

          El Burrito
          550 Piikoi St, Honolulu, HI 96814

          16 Replies
          1. re: KaimukiMan

            "Putting guacamole and sour cream on a burger does not make it a taco." A KMan classic! Been to Diego's #2 yet KMan?

            1. re: Joebob

              i need to put that on my list, thanks for the reminder joebob. is it different from #1? (which is a whole lot closer..) the yelp reviews are not encouraging, but i trust you more than them.... hehhe.

              1. re: KaimukiMan

                While I have not spent much time on Yelp, I have been greatly underwhelmed. Maybe this is such a time?


              2. re: KaimukiMan


                You conjured up some memories and also some personal thoughts on Mexican food. If the restaurant has a "bottomless Margarita," there IS a reason - the food is not good, but after a pitcher, or two, who knows?

                Now, I do love good Mexican food, and from many diverse states, but when in Hawai`i, other than maybe some influence in a dish, I am just not looking out for it. Same thing goes for San Francisco (though they may have some interesting Mexican) - just not what I am seeking.

                If I head to San Diego, things change greatly, and if in San Antonio, guess what I am looking for? It's like the people, who head to New Orleans, and want an authentic Philly Cheesesteak. Well, those are about 1800 miles to the northeast - why not look for New Orleans cuisine, with Creole, some Deep South and maybe Cajun influences?

                Now, you have to factor in that I am a tourist. Were I a local, I would view things a bit differently, as one might not want Pacific Rim, Hawai`ian or similar, every blinking night. Take my comments for what they are - a tourist in paradise.


                1. re: KaimukiMan

                  Los Chaparros? Haven't been lately, but they were offering some reasonably good dishes last time I was there...the Mojo de Ajo and Chile Rellenos were what I liked best. One side of the menu is aimed at the Taco Bell crowd...burritos, tacos, etc, but the other side has things that Mexicans actually eat. Again, haven't been in a while, but at the time thought they were better than most of the other choices.

                  Los Chaparros
                  2140 S Beretania St, Honolulu, HI 96826

                  1. re: macaraca

                    i've never been to los chaparros, will have to check it out.

                    anyone been to la bamba on kapahulu, or tacos ricos, also on kapahulu?

                    a trend i noticed in nyc was that a lot of mexican places were owned and staffed by chinese people, but they were still very good. there was a restaurant that made a fantastic chicken stew taco that i still crave, even if it wasn't 'authentic' mex.

                    1. re: indelibledotink

                      la bamba closed about a year ago, long enough for two places to take it's place, not sure what's there now. Taco's Ricos I commented on above. I think it is discussed on one of the other threads. Is Maria Bonita still open downtown? it was pretty decent, but not wonderful.

                      I'm confused about macaraca's comment about things Mexicans actually eat. Seems like that would be saying that Burgers, Hot Dogs and French Fries aren't things Americans actually eat. Tacos and burritos are certainly not the full extent of Mexican cuisine, but they are certainly a part of it.

                      Maria Bonita Restaurant
                      15 N Hotel St, Honolulu, HI 96817

                      1. re: KaimukiMan

                        Maria Bonita does their truck in Kailua on days Camille's on Wheels is not at that corner (by Hardware Hawaii). They also opened on Kahuhipa St. in Kaneohe but I have not been. Friends have gone and were not so impressed. I'd go next door to Triple C's and get some of their fabulous BBQ.

                        Maria Bonita Restaurant
                        15 N Hotel St, Honolulu, HI 96817

                      2. re: macaraca

                        sis and her fiance went to los chaparros yesterday and felt that the food wasn't seasoned enough. i tasted some of their beans and they needed a little salt and pepper; wasn't the best, but not bad. the jury's still out until i get some fresh food from there.

                        1. re: indelibledotink

                          I am not sorry to see mediocre Mexican disappearing. Is Serg's really the best Oahu has to offer? I'm sure it has a more diversified menu than Diego's, but is it better?

                          1. re: Joebob

                            i had either a burrito or taco at diego's in pearl city and it wasn't memorable at all. i remember being disappointed.

                            i was blown away by serg's in manoa's flauta. i really recommend them.

                      3. re: KaimukiMan

                        I totally agree with KaimukiMan...Azteca is the only decent mexican on Oahu. Pricey, but good. I am from East Los Angeles and it is difficult to find REALLY GOOD MEXICAN. Last night went to Azteca and I tried their carnitas. Was pretty good!

                        We are regulars at Azteca. Jose's is horrible. Mexico is worse (total bland, I was shaking every bottle of hot sauce they had all over my food). Anyone try Los Palenque in Wahiawa?

                        1. re: hawaiisrfn

                          Thanks hawaiisrfn, Azteca is very much the kind of mexican food I grew up with in California, real mexican for real mexicans, but not necessarily the kind of mexican food you find in mexico. it was old alta california mexican, authentic just as tex mex is authentic to where it evolved. One thing I really don't find in Hawaii is something akin to the 'new wave' of mexican food that you find in LA now at the taco trucks or 'hole in the wall' mexican restaurants that caters to the more recent immigrants. A very different take on mexican food from what I grew up with, but equally valid. Perhaps the closest here is Joebob's favorite, Diego's. Taco's Rico's tried, but missed the mark except on a rare good day.

                          1. re: KaimukiMan

                            i tried both Diego's Tacos 1 and 2...and very disappointed. Barely found any meat inside and also light sprinkle of cheese and it was mostly tortilla. Don't bother. Azteca is pricey,but at least it tastes good!

                      4. finally got to try out Serg's. went to the manoa restaurant. man, it was the best mexican food i've ever had. the taste was so fresh and alive, i couldn't believe it.

                        i had the flauta, which i had never had before. i recommend it, it's so delicate yet tasty. i don't know how to describe it well, but it was damn good.

                        only thing is the price; while none of the plates was over $10, i felt i could have eaten another one, although after a half hour, the feeling went away.

                        my sis said it was the best mex she's had outside of mexico.