By Kent Coules, This Week Publisher
Hawai’i has become a “foodie” town over the last 15 years or so, but Mexican food is not represented at the same level as other island specialties. In fact, as a native Southern California kid who grew up on Mexican food, I will go out of my way to find great Mexican. Here are three places on different parts on O’ahu worth tracking down:
Maria Bonita, Chinatown
15 N. Hotel St.
Mexican food in Chinatown, you say? Actually Chinatown is a know “foodie” haven, with restaurants featuring cuisine from all corners of the world. Maria’s Bonita, on Hotel Street, reminds me of some of my favorites from SoCal. The atmosphere is sparse; it’s all about the food. The homemade salsa that comes with some excellent chips is packed with flavor accompanied by a nice kick. Chips and salsa have always been a “tell” for me; I expected to be happy with my traditional asada taco, cheese enchilada combination and I was. Prices are reasonable by Hawaii standards. Take note: Maria’s Bonita is only open for lunch.
Serg’s Mexican Kitchen, Mānoa
2740 E. Mānoa Rd.
Serg’s is an institution in Mānoa, a mile and a half from the University of Hawaiʻi. A little greasy, and very crowded on Taco Tuesdays, Serg’s has the classic feel of a California Mexican joint. Most of the tables are outdoors.
Serg’s used to have an open salsa bar with several different varieties, including a creamy avocado salsa that was awesome. They still have an assortment of salsas, but now you have to ask for them, and you will be charged if you go over the minimum.
Nelly’s Tacos Mexicano, Kahuku
56-505 Kamehameha Hwy.
Nelly’s is a must go stop if you’re looking for a taco or burrito fix near the North Shore. It’s hidden away a bit in the Kahuku Food Truck Market, known best for the Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck parked in the front. The tortillas are homemade, which is a staple of good Mexican restaurants. The burritos are open-faced so make sure you grab a fork. Prices are reasonable but the menu is limited. What they do, however, they do well. I highly recommend Nelly’s.