I've been warned at least a couple of dozen times... you will not find any good Mexican food in Hawaii... and if you do let me know. Well its done... there is good Mexican in Hawaii. Maybe not a lot of outstanding examples... not much that would take California, Chicago or Texas by storm... or survive in say in Mexico City... and Hawaii will probably never be a bastion of Mexican gastronomy... but with adjusted expectations... you can eat deliciously here.
Just Tacos brings a lot of promise to the islands. Hawaii Hispanic News current issue has a front page article on Jesus Santoyo.. the 26 year old behind this nascent chain. Jesus was born in Tijuana & lived in San Diego before attending college & business school in Long Beach (CA). He went on to work for Ross Department stores and became the Regional Director in charge of Hawaii & Guam... a couple of years ago he leveraged his Retail expertise to open the first Just Tacos on Bishop... and now has a 2nd location, larger location in Mililani. Good business skills + he knows real Mexican cuisine (at least that of Tijuana & Guadalajara where his parents are from) = A very promising restaurateur
I tried JT for the first time today...
> Ensenada style Fish Taco is extremely good... all the elements are there pilowy hand made corn tortillas, crispy greaseless fried fish fillet, cabbage, tangy white sauce... and a good "Fiery Red" sauce to round it out. Believe me... many San Diegans would like to have fish tacos this good. ($2.50)
> Birria Taco is pretty good. ($2.50) For those unfamiliar with Birria... its an ancient dish that has evolved in to various regional takes... but generally its lean red meat marinated in a rub of dried chiles & spices then cooked low & slow until meltingly tender. The most famous version comes from the Guadalajara sub-urb of Tlaquepaque where restaurants specialize in this one dish and don't do much else. In Tlaquepaque we are talking whole young goat (not kid)... the marinade might have guajillo chiles, vinegar, cloves, allspice, white pepper, thyme, marjoram, ginger etc.,... usually served in a broth made from the drippings... handmade tortillas, raw onions, cilantro & limes.
JT version is in the Tijuana style... beef instead of goat, and served without broth. This version was good... had a heady flavor from the marinade... but unfortunately JT doesn't prepare the appropriate salsa (Roasted Tomatillos, Garlic, Arbol Chiles etc.,)
So far so good... the major disappointment is that they don't make any Aguas Frescas... which I really don't understand because a Papaya or Pineapple agua would be perfect... and I think the locals would really like them.
Nitpicking... I wish they had a nice spicy fruit salad (Cucumber, Watermelon, Oranges, Mango, Coconut... sprinkle of Piquin powder, salt & lime juice)... as a side order... but whatdaugoin2do?
I will post about other decent Mexican eateries in the next couple of days.
Just Tacos Mexican Grill
1111 Bishop St, Honolulu, HI 96813